New sensors can help improve wind energy yields by 10%, while reducing maintenance costs by the same percentage (note: I read something about this last year, and if I can find the article, I'll post it).
Catch the Wind, a Virginia-based company, makes a device that “spots” breezes in front of wind turbines so that the machines can be adjusted to take best advantage of the wind; machines today measure wind once it’s already passed by.
“Using current technology is like driving while looking in the rear-view mirror,” Phil Rogers, chief executive of Catch the Wind, told us. By correctly aligning wind turbines throughout the day, the company estimates its laser technology can boost power output 10% and reduce wear and tear on misaligned turbines, reducing maintenance costs by another 10%. Though the company wouldn’t disclose how much the system costs, it says the payback time for wind-farm operators is “two to three years.”
Now’s not exactly the best time to ask renewable-energy developers to pony up more money, though the company says big turbine makers and wind-farm developers have been receptive to the technology.
But if Catch the Wind’s laser devices—currently undergoing testing in Nebraska after a smaller test last year in Canada—pass muster, they could help mitigate a few of the problems still plaguing the sector.
To wit: Boosting power production will make marginal sites more attractive for wind power. That’s important because the more wind power a country installs, as a rule, the less attractive the remaining sites are.