Before you can begin to harness the natural power of the wind, you need to know where to look, and it’s at this very beginning stage that the predictive capabilities of high-end computers come into play. Over at RenewableEnergyWorld.com, Kevin Corbley, a consultant specializing in the geospatial and energy industries, has written an informative article exploring the use of computer modeling in the selection of wind farm sites. The models are used to locate the absolute best placement for wind farms to maximize their generative and economic potential. In fact, Corbley explains that “selecting the best geographic locations to build wind farms that will produce the maximum energy with the least intermittence in power generation is the perfect problem for a supercomputer to solve.”
Using supercomputing resources from the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Center (RMSC) to run their simulations, a research team from Northrop Grumman created a regional climate model that determines how climatic conditions will impact a network of potential sites 50 years into the future. A sophisticated search algorithm ranks the sites in order to pinpoint a group of geographically-diverse farms that work together to produce the healthiest wind profile.
Earl J. Dodd of the Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Center explains that “the supercomputer is able to take the numerous variables that will impact the proposed wind farm’s efficiency — topography, land cover, historic wind data, global climate change, proximity to transmission infrastructure — and quickly model them in billions of different combinations to pick the optimal sites.”
The selection process is extensive, but the multi-site approach is turning out to be more lucrative and consistently profitable compared with the single farm model. With the potential financial benefits, not to mention the “green” aspect, it’s no surprise the technology has garnered the attention of the alternative energy community as well as state governments and regional energy providers. According to Corbley, this method also promises a streamlined permitting process, the ability to get facilities up and running more quickly, and reduced operational expenses.