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The wind is the fuel for the wind power station. Small changes in wind speed produce greater changes in the commercial value of a wind farm. For example, a 1 per cent increase in the wind speed might be expected to yield a 2 per cent increase in energy production.
This chapter explains why knowledge of the wind is important for each and every stage of the development of a wind farm, from initial site selection right through to operation.
Europe has an enormous wind resource. It can be considered on various levels. At the top level, the potential resource can be examined from a strategic standpoint:
- Where is it?
- How does it compare to the EU and national electricity demands?
- What regions and areas offer good potential?
At the next level it is necessary to understand the actual wind resource on a site in great detail:
- How is it measured?
- How will it change with time?
- How does it vary over the site?
- How is it harnessed?
It is at this stage that commercial evaluation of a wind farm is required and robust estimates must be provided to support investment and financing decisions. Once the wind speed on the site has been estimated, it is then vital to make an accurate and reliable estimate of the resulting energy production from a wind farm that might be built there. This requires wind farm modelling and detailed investigation of the environmental and ownership constraints.
As its contribution to electricity consumption increases, in the context of liberalised energy markets, new questions are beginning to emerge, which are critically linked to the nature of the wind:
- How can wind energy be consolidated, traded and generally integrated into our conventional electricity systems?
- Will an ability to forecast wind farm output help this integration?
These questions, and more, are addressed in this chapter. The first section looks at the strategic “raw” resource issues, and the following sections provide a detailed step-by-step evaluation of the assessment process. A worked example of a real wind farm is provided and, finally, recommendations are made about the important matters that need to be tackled in the near future to help wind energy play its full part.
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