Wind turbine power performance characteristics are determined by the measured power curve (the relationship between the wind speed and the wind turbine power output) and the estimated annual energy production. Before siting a farm, it is vital to have an accurate picture of the site’s wind conditions. And once turbines are in place, understanding the velocity and duration of the wind is vital to ensuring its energy is either captured or the turbine is able to adjust to variable wind conditions. Using emerging light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology enables a producer to see a few seconds into the future, helping evaluate wind parameters, and allowing wind turbine controls and blades to adjust appropriately to the conditions.
LiDAR—a play on the word radar—functions by bouncing a laser light beam off airborne particles that it comes into contact with. The reflected wave is then collected by a telescope, enabling the difference in frequency to be calculated by applying the Doppler effect to the particle speeds. This then determines the wind speed. When combined with advanced data analysis, control algorithms, and the accurate capture of multi-dimensional wind information, LiDAR enables operators to reduce fatigue and peak loads (Figure 1).
A LiDAR measurement can be done as part of the commissioning of a wind farm to compare against the warranted power curve or it can be used as an operational tool to quickly verify wind turbine performance or detect under-performance. When installed during turbine construction, LiDAR-assisted turbine control technology can redefine turbine design limits by mitigating extreme events, increasing energy capture, and reducing loads. For specific projects, turbines can be equipped with larger rotors enabling significant cost-of-energy reductions and lighter towers to reduce wind turbine costs, improving overall power generation and return on investment for the project.
Compared to standard measurement-mast-mounted cup anemometers, data can be collected much faster by a nacelle-based LiDAR system. Additionally, the installation of the nacelle-based LiDAR takes only about a half day and there is no need for a building permit as often is necessary for an onshore measuring mast.
LiDAR Technology Matures with the Wind Energy Sector
One initial finding was that if the rotor blades were turned into or out of the wind soon enough, the rotor speed is kept almost constant, even in the case of gusts. Over the 20 years of a typical turbine’s life, this substantially reduces fatigue as well as extreme loads.
Since then, LiDAR has played an increasingly integral role in wind power development.