Prospecting for Wind

17 Nov
Map showing estimated wind resources and exist...

Image via Wikipedia

Now that I’m working on a chapter about wind power, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about … wind. What is wind and how does it work? On the one hand it’s simple–wind happens what warm air rises and cooler air rushed in to replace it. But when and how much wind blow in a given area — that’s more complex. It depends on temperature, topography, land use, and dozens of other constantly shifting factors.

Knowing when and where wind blows, and how much it blows in a given place, is important the wind power, for pretty obvious reasons. Before plunking down millions to build a wind farm, a developer has to know with as much certainty as possible if there’s going to be enough wind five, 10, and even 30 years down the road to make the investment worthwhile.

So how can you predict something as ephemeral and shifting as wind? To find out, I recently spoke with Kristin Larson, an atmospheric scientist at a Seattle-based energy information company called 3TIER. I’ll blog in more detail about the science of wind forecasting another time. For now, long story short, scientists like Kristin, who specializes in wind forecasting, use a variety of tools to make predictions, including models that crunch more than a half century’s worth of weather data from around the world. The company uses the data-fed models to create highly detailed wind maps, allowing wind farm developers to scout the most promising locations.

It’s worth digging deeper into the science. But for now, check out this video from 3Tier …

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