Coastal wind farm

Importance of wind resource estimation

Wind energy is emerging as the most economical form of renewable energy with Levelised Cost of Electricity now at grid parity levels and below electricity from fossil fuel-powered plants.

19 April 2021

There are no environmental risks or degradation from the exploration, extraction, transport, shipment, processing, or fuel disposal. The wind energy output relies on the wind resource present on-site. Therefore, quantifying the wind resource and energy production has become a pivotal activity in the life cycle of a wind project because it governs the project's financial viability.

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Stages of a wind energy project

Wind resource estimation is important because it is used to derive the average annual energy production (AEP) of the wind power plant, which determines the project development's revenues and cash flow. During the feasibility and bankability stage of the project, this information is used in the financial analysis of the project, which is essential in taking the Final Investment Decision (FID). For instance, if the AEP is overestimated, the risk of the project not achieving the intended IRR would put the development under jeopardy for the investors during the operations stage.

There are many stages in the life cycle of a wind energy project. Pre-feasibility involves determining the potential site and mapping the wind resources to establish a shortlist of regions, using readily available wind data and translating it to hub height to derive the high-level AEP and qualify the sites.

During the feasibility stage, the wind information needs to be worked to improve resolution since the individual turbine in the wind farms needs to be laid to derive the sea lease area. Also, consider the relative distance between the turbines and account for loss due to turbulence.

Upwind turbine calculations often involve using the available wind information and translating it to turbine spacing resolution and hub heights to derive the AEP and wind farm layout. At this stage, the AEP accuracy is +/-50%.

Before the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) start, site surveys and LIDAR measurements are used to calibrate existing data during the design and engineering stage.

As well as computing annual energy production (AEP), the losses and uncertainties will have to be accounted for when conducting a structural analysis of the foundation or mooring.

Last but not least, offshore wind project development is characterised by evolving equity and lender finance infusion. The accuracy and robustness of the wind resource estimation stage assume high importance in this context since during the due diligence, the financier looks to reduce uncertainty in their future cash flow.

Meet the expert

Cho Wutyi Thin

Civil & Structural Engineer, Maritime Structures

Cho Wutyi Thin

Civil & Structural Engineer, Maritime Structures

Cho has been working as a structural engineer after completing a Masters at the University of Melbourne. She has undertaken feasibility studies, reviews, structural design assessments, and detailed designs of maritime structures to meet appropriate technical standards and the client's requirements. Moreover, she has considerable experience in the construction management of residential and commercial development projects.

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