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Catching the wind with laser technology

The wind industry could soon be using a new type of innovative technology that has more to do with lasers than ecology. A new laser system that can be mounted on wind turbines allows them to prepare for the wind rushing toward their blades. These lasers act like sonar for the wind, bouncing off microscopically small particulates and back to a fiber optic detector. PES investigates …

The data from the detector is then fed to an on-board processor which generates a three-dimensional view of the wind speed and direction. Subtle adjustments in the turbine blade’s angle to the window allows it to capture more energy and protect itself in case of strong gusts.

The company that developed the Vindicator system, Catch the Wind, recently deployed a wind unit on a Nebraska Public Power District turbine. It increased the production of the unit by more than 10 per cent, according to the company’s white paper. If those numbers held across the nation’s 35 GW of installed wind capacity, the LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors could add more than 3.5 GW of wind capacity without adding a single additional turbine.

The Vindicator fiber optic laser wind sensing system measures real-time horizontal and vertical wind speed and direction at varying ranges out to 300 meters ahead of the sensor. When mounted on a wind turbine nacelle, this forward-looking information facilitates smarter turbine control for increased power output and reduced turbine stress. The sensor design is based on state-of-the-art fiber optic laser technology developed and patented at Optical Air Data Systems LLC.


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