The purpose of this project was to conduct the first comprehensive offshore wind assessment over Lake Michigan and to advance the body of knowledge needed to support future commercial wind energy development on the Great Lakes. The project involved evaluation and selection of emerging wind measurement technology and the permitting, installation and operation of the first mid-lake wind assessment meteorological (MET) facilities in Michigan’s Great Lakes. In addition, the project provided the first opportunity to deploy and field test floating LIDAR and Laser Wind Sensor (LWS) technology, and important research related equipment key to the sitting and permitting of future offshore wind energy development in accordance with public participation guidelines established by the Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council (GLOW). The project created opportunities for public dialogue and community education about offshore wind resource management and continued the dialogue to foster Great Lake wind resource utilization consistent with the focus of the GLOW Council. The technology proved to be effective, affordable, mobile, and the methods of data measurement accurate. The public benefited from a substantial increase in knowledge of the wind resources over Lake Michigan and gained insights about the potential environmental impacts of offshore wind turbine placements in the future. The unique first ever hub height wind resource assessment using LWS technology over water and development of related research data along with the permitting, sitting, and deployment of the WindSentinel MET buoy has captured public attention and has helped to increase awareness of the potential of future offshore wind energy development on the Great Lakes. Specifically, this project supported the acquisition and operation of a WindSentinel (WS) MET wind assessment buoy, and associated research for 549 days over multiple years at three locations on Lake Michigan. Four research objectives were defined for the project including to: 1) test and validate floating LIDAR technology; 2) collect and access offshore wind data; 3) detect and measure bird and bat activity over Lake Michigan; 4) conduct an over water sound propagation study; 5) prepare and offer a college course on offshore energy, and; 6) collect other environmental, bathometric, and atmospheric data. Desk-top research was performed to select anchorage sites and to secure permits to deploy the buoy. The project also collected and analyzed data essential to wind industry investment decision-making including: deploying highly mobile floating equipment to gather offshore wind data; correlating offshore wind data with conventional on-shore MET tower data; and performing studies that can contribute to the advancement and deployment of offshore wind technologies. Related activities included:
- Siting, permitting, and deploying an offshore floating MET facility;
- Validating the accuracy of floating LWS using near shoreline cup anemometer MET instruments;
- Assessment of laser pulse technology (LIDAR) capability to establish hub height measurement of wind conditions at multiple locations on Lake Michigan;
- Utilizing an extended-season (9-10 month) strategy to collect hub height wind data and weather conditions on Lake Michigan;
- Investigation of technology best suited for wireless data transmission from distant offshore structures;
- Conducting field-validated sound propagation study for a hypothetical offshore wind farm from shoreline locations;
- Identifying the presence or absence of bird and bat species near wind assessment facilities;
- Identifying the presence or absence of benthic and pelagic species near wind assessment facilities; All proposed project activities were completed with the following major findings:
- Floating Laser Wind Sensors are capable of high quality measurement and recordings of wind resources. The WindSentinel presented no significant operational or statistical limitations in recording wind data technology at a at a high confidence level as compared to traditional anemometer cup technology.
- During storms, mean Turbulent Kinetic Energy (TKE) increases with height above water;
- Sufficient wind resources exist over Lake Michigan to generate 7,684 kWh of power using a 850 kW rated turbine at elevations between 90 - 125 meters, a height lower than originally anticipated for optimum power generation;
- Based on initial assessments, wind characteristics are not significantly different at distant (thirty-two mile) offshore locations as compared to near-shore (six mile) locations;
- Significant cost savings can be achieved in generation wind energy at lower turbine heights and locating closer to shore.
- Siting must be sufficiently distant from shore to minimize visual impact and to address public sentiment about offshore wind development;
- Project results show that birds and bats do frequent the middle of Lake Michigan, bats more so than birds;
- Based on the wind resource assessment and depths of Lake Michigan encountered during the project, future turbine placement will most likely need to incorporate floating or anchored technology;
- The most appropriate siting of offshore wind energy locations will enable direct routing of transmission cables to existing generating and transmission facilities located along the Michigan shoreline;
- Wind turbine noise propagation from a wind energy generating facility at a five mile offshore location will not be audible at the shoreline over normal background sound levels.