Wind Energy Prospectors Use Satellites to Phone Home

You’ve got to check for wind before putting up a turbine, and wind energy prospecting is a decidedly high-tech affair. Wind energy developer Renewable Energy Systems Americas has signed an agreement to use Globalstar satellite modems to transit data from remote wind-energy monitoring stations assessing potential sites. RES tells us it already has 14 Globalstar modems out in the field transmitting data from a bevvy of far-flung anemometers and wind vanes.

Under the agreement, RES will purchase communications controllers designed by Crystalline Technology Inc. that use Globalstar’s GSP-1620 and 1720 units. Each $1,000 modem connects to Globalstar’s satellite network, which relays the information on wind speeds and consistency to RES headquarters.

The process of assessing a potential wind-farm site can take years. It starts with the DOE’s wind-energy map which charts roughly the wind energy resources of the U.S. Once a developer finds an area it likes, it needs to talk with local landowners to set up an agreement to start the on-site assessment. Then a lattice of meters, gauges and telecommunication gizmos is erected to collect and transmit data. RES says it collects data for at least one year, and sometimes up to six years, before deciding on whether the location is a viable site for a project.

The business of siting and assessing wind farms is an industry unto itself. Twenty-seven-year-old Second Wind raised $4 million from Good Energies late last year for its “wind profiling” business. The company’s Triton Sonic Wind Profiler uses what’s known as sodar — for “sonic detection and ranging” — to bounce sound off of air turbulence up to 200 meters up and measures the echo to gauge wind speeds with no tower installed. The resulting data is relayed through Second Wind’s SkyServe Satellite Wind Data Service which also uses Globalstar’s CMDA technology.

RES says it will only use the satellite modems when the sites are out of cellular coverage; otherwise the towers are equipped with cellular transmission cards. However, if a site is too far away for cell service, it’s like also likely far from any transmission lines. Too bad scientists have yet to work out all the kinks of beaming power via satellite.