Buoys provide data on birds and bats offshore


Offshore wind has significant potential to bring abundant renewable energy to homes and businesses in coastal communities. But wind power plant operators need solid information about conditions, such as wind speed at different times of the day, to confidently make wise investments in wind power plant technology and locations. This is the case of California, which is seeking to add offshore wind to its energy resources. In fall 2020, DOE’s PNNL partnered with WETO and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to deploy two offshore wind research buoys off the northern and central coasts of California, near Humboldt and Morro Bay, respectively. , in California.

Earlier this year, the buoy parked near Humboldt was taken offline for some technical upgrades. A research team rationalized the energy consumption of this buoy and incorporated more efficient data management capabilities.

The buoy also invited a new passenger on board.

Hitchin ‘a Ride is for birds (and bats)

Enter ThermalTracker-3D, a technology developed by PNNL and supported by WETO. ThermalTracker-3D is designed to track the behaviors and attributes of birds (avians) and bats, such as height and flight speed, necessary for the assessment of potential risks associated with the development of offshore wind energy .

Prototype technology, fitted with specialized software and a pair of thermal stereovision cameras, hitchhiked the Morro Bay buoy 20 miles off the coast of Humboldt County in an attempt to collect information on the activity of seabirds and bats. Associated with the buoy, bird and bat activity can be correlated with various weather and ocean conditions.

This image, created from a sequence of ThermalTracker-3D photo frames, shows the flight path of a bird over the Pacific Ocean. Image courtesy of Shari Matzner, PNNL

The Bob In results

The one-year deployment ends in fall 2021 for the Morro Bay buoy, with those results starting to land in the hands of the team in real time.

“So far, we have noticed a great variability in the daily wind speed, especially in the upper part of the turbine rotor layer, at Morro Bay,” said Raghu Krishnamurthy, a PNNL scientist who analyzes the data. “We also find that the wind speed has increased about one and a half times at night.”

At the Humboldt location off the north coast, steady-state winds – winds that provide constant power generation at all hours of the day – are observed at every altitude. This data will provide additional information on the minimum daily electricity production available from offshore wind power plants in California during all seasons.

The PNNL team continues to analyze buoy data in depth as it arrives and will publish a technical report in late 2021.

ThermalTracker-3D also continues to extract bird data – recording data continuously and transmitting flight data to land on an hourly basis. In its first 30 days at sea, the system recorded 699 flight paths – the first time that continuous “24/7” observations have been made in coastal United States waters.

One of two offshore wind research buoys managed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), as shown in an artist rendering. The buoys are equipped with instruments capable of measuring wind speed up to 250 meters, the height of today’s wind turbines. The results will help wind power operators make decisions for states like California about investments and locations. Image by Mike Perkins, PNNL

Float – and fly – into the future

The Morro Bay buoy will also be salvaged from the ocean and will undergo similar upgrades to the Humboldt buoy, which will remain deployed until spring 2022. It will then make a tropical voyage to the coast off Oahu, Hawaii. , to support offshore wind power planning for this state.

ThermalTracker-3D is installed on the Humboldt buoy as part of its update. Photo by Shari Matzner, PNNL

Meanwhile, once ThermalTracker-3D completes its first stint in California, the research team plans to develop a system for possible future deployment on an offshore wind turbine. This effort will compare post-construction seabird behavior with baseline data collected off the buoy, thus completing an understanding of how seabirds are affected by wind power development at sea.

Data from the buoy and ThermalTracker-3D deployments will be available to the wind energy research community on the Data Archive and Portal, which is managed by PNNL. In August, World R&D Magazine announced that ThermalTracker-3D is a finalist for an R&D 100 award in the Software / Services category; the winners will be announced later this year.

Courtesy of Energy.gov & PNNL, The newest dynamic duo for offshore wind research, ThermalTracker-3D is partnering with the offshore wind research buoy on deployment to California.

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