New atlas could help wind energy sweep across Great Lakes

September 9, 2015 by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell University
Cornell's Paula Doubrawa stands atop a wind turbine at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Wind Technology Center in Colorado in August, where she was conducting research.

By compiling meteorological wind data – derived from several sources – Cornell University and the Technical University of Denmark scientists have assembled the first full observational wind atlas of the Great Lakes. The atlas bolsters the chances for developing wind energy in the region.

Accurate wind data lives in a disjointed and disjunctive world. The researchers have meshed these data to create a high-definition atlas, using information gathered from weather stations, buoys, QuikSCAT (a NASA satellite that collects and speed data over water bodies) and satellites equipped with , or SAR.

"The techniques that we have employed optimize the strengths of each measurement type, allowing a longtime series of data to be combined with the exceptional spatial resolution of the satellites – corrected for gaps in data due to ice cover in the winter months – using a new algorithm," said lead author Paula Doubrawa, a Cornell doctoral candidate in the field of engineering.

Doubrawa, her adviser Rebecca Barthelmie, professor of engineering, and others published, "Satellite winds as a tool for offshore wind resource assessment: The Great Lakes Wind Atlas" in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment (October 2015.)

For years, scientists, economists and environmentalists have touted the potential for development in the Great Lakes region, as it features a large expanse of exploitable wind resources. The lakes – touching eight states and two Canadian provinces – extend over 150,000 square miles, creating about 84 percent of North America's surface freshwater and 21 percent of Earth's total surface freshwater.

Wind resources are difficult to quantify accurately, Doubrawa said. For example, surface ice formation during winter months precludes retrieval of wind speeds from satellites and warrants removal of buoys. Additionally, offshore observations are sparse, and sometimes wind data derived from satellite scatterometers (microwave radar sensors) and SAR may not be available either in time or at the required location

"The compilation and analysis of these datasets is very time-consuming – and now the work has been done," said Barthelmie, a faculty fellow in Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. "Assembling this atlas and this kind of work helps agencies that plan wind farms or manage where wind farms will be located by identifying optimal locations."

Said Barthelmie: "These maps can be integrated with other GIS-type databases – for example, mapping shipping lanes or recreational areas – to help plan where might be located as a balance between resource and existing constraints."

Explore further: As wind-turbine farms expand, research shows they could offer diminishing returns

Related Stories

Probing the limits of wind power generation

September 2, 2015

(—Wind turbine farms now account for an estimated 3.3 percent of electricity generation in the United States, and 2.9 percent of electricity generated globally. The wind turbine industry is growing along all vectors, ...

Researchers find way for eagles and wind turbines to coexist

August 27, 2015

Collisions with wind turbines kill about 100 golden eagles a year in some locations, but a new study that maps both potential wind-power sites and nesting patterns of the birds reveals sweet spots, where potential for wind ...

Just how green is wind power?

March 30, 2015

Wind power may have a positive image, but setting up offshore wind farms is complicated and energy-intensive. Because Siemens promises its customers and the authorities a high degree of transparency for the environmental ...

Offshore wind farms, hurricanes, and sustainability

August 4, 2015

Block Island, which is located 13 miles off the Rhode Island coast, will soon be home to North America's first offshore wind farm. Late last month, Deepwater Wind, the company behind the $338 million project, installed the ...

Recommended for you

Cryptocurrency rivals snap at Bitcoin's heels

January 14, 2018

Bitcoin may be the most famous cryptocurrency but, despite a dizzying rise, it's not the most lucrative one and far from alone in a universe that counts 1,400 rivals, and counting.

Top takeaways from Consumers Electronics Show

January 13, 2018

The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded Friday in Las Vegas, drew some 4,000 exhibitors from dozens of countries and more than 170,000 attendees, showcased some of the latest from the technology world.

Finnish firm detects new Intel security flaw

January 12, 2018

A new security flaw has been found in Intel hardware which could enable hackers to access corporate laptops remotely, Finnish cybersecurity specialist F-Secure said on Friday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.