Catching the Wind: Exploring Methods for Low-cost Wind Site Assessment

Raising of the WindtowerRESU received a $10,000 grant in 2007 from the Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) Sustainability Design Competition. Our project involved the installation of a wind monitoring station in Kneeland, CA and the development of a software tool to reduce the time needed to monitor at a potential site for wind power. In mid-April of 2008, we competed against 57 other P3 Award recipients from across the nation at the EPA Sustainability Expo on the National Mall. Our project received an honorable mention.

The use of wind power can reduce demand for fossil fuels, decrease local air and water pollution, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Humboldt County has an appreciable wind resource and great potential for wind development on both the small and large scale. For large wind farms, site assessment is a small portion of the overall project cost. For small and medium scale wind power projects, however, the cost and time required for site assessment can be a significant barrier for project development. Current practices require at least one year of measured wind data or the use of expensive software to estimate a site’s resource.

RESU responded to this challenge by using grant funds to purchase wind monitoring equipment which we installed on a ridge in Kneeland, CA. We also developed and evaluated several methods that reduce the length of time needed to make accurate wind resource assessments. These methods will be available for use as the Statistical Wind Energy Estimation Tool (SWEET), a web-based open source software package. We were supported in our efforts by Professors Arne Jacobson and Charles Chamberlin of the Environmental Resources Engineering Department at HSU, as well as Ben Scurfield of Scurfield Solar, Michael Welch of the Redwood Alliance, Troy Nicolini and the staff of the Eureka National Weather Service, Rebecca and Eliel Saucedo, and the Schatz Energy Research Center.

The Kneeland Windtower Team