Science & Technology

USU's Center for Active Sensing and Imaging Helps Rural Utahns Manage Wind

The VisibleWind wind mapping technology suite, developed by the Center for Active Sensing and Imaging, a Utah State University USTAR team, is helping wind developers site a 100-megawatt wind farm in rural windswept Daggett County, Utah.

So far, VisibleWind has successfully mapped wind patterns in Utah’s Danish Flats near an oil processing facility and has been used to determine the optimal placement of a potential wind turbine in Logan Canyon near USU. Useful strong winds have also been identified in Monticello and Clarkston, Utah, and Boulder, Colo. 

“Wind farms typically produce about 10 percent less electricity than projected,” said Robert Barson, executive director of CASI. “A 100-turbine farm is working with essentially 90 fully functioning turbines. This creates a significant loss of investment due to the high cost of construction.”

A typical 100-turbine wind farm costs approximately $400 million to build. Using the VisibleWind suite of wind mapping tools, Barson and the CASI team believe they can increase performance output of wind farms.

The VisibleWind technology suite includes ValidWind, VolumeWind and VigilWind.
ValidWind uses a lighter-than-air balloon with an attached reflector. Once released, the reflectors attached to the balloon are easily tracked using lidar technology. A series of measurements are automatically collected at periodic time intervals and a computer program calculates the balloon trajectory and wind velocity.

RAMM Power, Inc., a Utah startup company, has recruited CASI’s ValidWind technology to determine the viability of a wind farm along the Utah-Wyoming border.

The purpose of ValidWind, according to Barson, is to “validate” wind patterns, a necessary step in wind prospecting. ValidWind is low cost and precise, and tracking can be performed at day or night.

“ValidWind is a fully developed and calibrated wind profiling device,” said Tom Wilkerson, inventor of the technology along with Alan Marchant and William Bradford of CASI.
A provisional patent and trademark protection have been filed through USU’s Technology Commercialization Office.
VolumeWind, a second prong of the VisibleWind technology suite, utilizes laser sensing to help the wind power industry more effectively site wind turbines and increase power generation efficiency.

VolumeWind has reached the semifinalist state in the Rocky Mountain bracket of the national CleanTech Open contest. VolumeWind technology allows rapid scanning of large atmospheric volumes, full 3D wind characterization based on data and highly detailed mapping of local wind fields.

VigilWind is a device consisting of a kite and balloon. The balloon gives VigilWind lift when the wind isn’t blowing and the kite keeps the device in the wind when it is blowing.

The VisibleWind suite has application in and outside wind energy markets. The system can create 3D models over complex terrain, assess wind variability, locate placement for optimal turbine performance, improve turbine design and give advance warnings of dangerous winds.

Additionally, VisibleWind can be used for air pollution assessments, architectural surveys and civil engineering projects as well as homeland security threat detection by measuring aerosols in the air and predicting their pattern of movement.

 “The VisibleWind technology suite developed at Utah State University is an excellent example of developments made possible by the USTAR initiative,” said Ned M. Weinshenker, vice president for strategic ventures and economic development at USU. “We are very pleased with the success of the Center for Active Sensing and Imaging and look forward to the success of VisibleWind and the impacts it can make on the wind energy sector.”

The Utah Science Technology and Research initiative is a long-term, state-funded investment to strengthen Utah’s “knowledge economy” and generate high-paying jobs. Funded in March 2006 by the state legislature, USTAR is based on three program areas. The first area involves funding for strategic investments at the University of Utah and Utah State University to recruit world-class researchers. The second area is to build state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facilities at these institutions for the innovation teams. The third program area involves teams that work with companies and entrepreneurs across the state to promote science, innovation and commercialization activities.

More information about USTAR is online or follow Twitter. USU news is also online or follow USU USTAR and USU Technology Commercialization office.

Contact: Robert Barson, 435-797-7051, executive director of the Center for Active Sensing and Imaging,
Writer: Jacoba Mendelkow Poppleton, 435-797-9608,
USU, wind mapping technology, fieldwork

USU's Center for Active Sensing and Imaging, a Utah State University USTAR team, has developed the VisibleWind wind mapping technology suite. VisibleWind has successfully mapped wind patterns at a number of sites.


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