The systems on the device are capable of measuring wind speeds at heights of between 40 and 200 metres

More efficient offshore wind possible with new sea buoy

A wind measurement buoy that can provide detailed information about an area’s energy generating potential to help operators construct offshore wind farms in optimal locations has been developed by Fraunhofer researchers.

The device uses precise measurement technology to supply the data necessary to determine where to place an offshore wind facility when it is still in the planning phase.

The device should maximise the profitability of offshore wind which depends on wind speed for energy generation.

“Constant high wind speeds at sea can offset the huge investment costs for building the farms and connecting them to the grid,” says Claudia Rudolph, one of the Fraunhofer scientists working on the project.

“The profitability of wind farms comes from the difference between feed-in compensation and the costs for construction and maintenance.”

The buoy relies on LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology and is based on the light buoys that have been used in the North Sea for over thirty years.

The scientists have adapted the pre-existing devices to measure wind potential. It is over eight meters in length, has a diameter of 2.55 meters and weighs 4.9 tons.

The measuring systems on the device are capable of measuring wind speeds at heights of between 40 and 200 metres.

It is enclosed in an aluminium housing that holds the LiDAR measuring device and protects it against salt water and extreme environmental conditions at sea.

The housing contains a glass panel through which the laser beam can pass unhindered into the atmosphere.

“LiDAR systems send pulsed laser beams into the atmosphere, which reflect off of aerosol particles in the air. From the frequency shift of the backscattered signal, the wind speed and direction are calculated at the corresponding measurement heights,” explains Rudolph.

The device is powered by three small 400-watt wind generators and three 70-watt solar panels, with gel batteries to store the energy.

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