There's a new wind blowing when it comes to collecting data on this renewable resource, and its name is the AXYS WindSentinel. The wind-data-collecting buoy developed in partnership between the Grand Valley State University and the University of Michigan will be set to launch at the end of September of 2011 where it will begin trials to collect wind speed data as well as test the water-quality, conduct aquatic studies and monitor avian activity in Lake Michigan.
The AXYS WindSentinel
, manufactured at AXYS Technologies, Inc., in Sidney, British Columbia, will utilize a cunning laser system to gather the wind-speed information on the surface of the Lake Michigan. The Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) laser light pulse technology works by striking a target with light in order to analyze the distance to or the specific properties of the object. Areas of study such as geography, archeology, agriculture and meteorology have made use of this laser technology for several different applications; its narrow beam can create very high-resolution pictures of the areas being studied.
In terms of gathering information on the wind, the LIDAR system can determine wind speeds and wind turbulence by analyzing data collected from the particles in the air. This technology is able to compose data usually found by an anemometer on a meteorological tower, but is much more mobile and time- and cost-efficient.
As the buoy sails about the lake, researchers from the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing at the Grand Valley State University analyze the data stream on shore. Then, the data is sent to the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute (MMPEI) and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) at MSU for further analysis and more comprehensive assessments.
Researchers hope that someday the AXYS WindSentinel buoy project will answer more questions about effectively harvesting wind energy off shore. If the data proves to be helpful and conclusive then off-shore wind turbines can help to power the entire Great Lakes area in the near future.
This prospect is exciting, considering the main sources of energy currently used. According to the state electric profiles listed by the Energy Information Administration (EIA)
, nuclear power is the primary source of electricity in Illinois and New York, and coal is the primary source for all the other states in the great lakes region including Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Reducing or completely removing dependency on these dangerous or dirty sources of energy can mean better overall safety, a cleaner environment and an improved quality of life for residents in the Great Lakes area.
Photo courtesy mich.gov