How can lidars help wind investors?
We are set to host our inaugural European Wind Investment Awards on 31st October. Before the event, we're looking at the companies shortlisted in our Innovation Award category, and how they could influence the industry. In this edition, we look at the ZX TM programme by Natural Power and ZX Lidars.
What is the ZX TM programme?
In 2016, renewable energy consultant Natural Power and ZX Lidars started to collaborate on a new turbine-mounted lidar: the ZX TM prototype.
Lidars remotely measure the wind ahead of turbines in order to accurately compare energy production from the site to the available wind resource. This enables wind farm owners to tune turbines, individually and collectively, to the actual site conditions, overcoming shortfalls in original site modelling or wind conditions that were not considered during the design of the wind farm.
Specifically, ZX TM lidar technology is able to detect complex flow conditions such as wakes generated within a wind farm, and enable wind farm owners to replace existing cup anemometers to measure wind speeds and determine operational power curves. For wind farm owners, this means they would only need one tool to accurately measure the full wind profile of a wind turbine.
In addition, in this programme, data from the nacelle-mounted lidar isn’t given to the project's owner immediately but is first analysed by Natural Power.
Wind data gathered remotely in the free stream, in the turbine induction zone and across the wind farm is used to benchmark performance of the individual turbines in order to fine-tune each one, and boost the project's performance. Natural Power then gives the wind farm owner an analysis of this performance, and a comparison to the expected and predicted wind characteristics on-site.
Why is it an innovation?
Wind specialists and data scientists from Natural Power and ZX Lidars have worked with wind farms owners and turbine manufacturers on what they've called a new approach to total wind farm optimisation. The aim is to tune the turbines and enable the whole wind farm to respond to real site conditions.
The ZX TM lidar programme enables wind farm owners to use only one tool to measure wind conditions in the free wind stream ahead of the turbine at multiple ranges and at multiple points across the entire rotor.
This, together with data analysis delivered by Natural Power, would provide a truer picture of the project’s wind conditions than is usually available, and help wind firms to develop a proactive strategy of marginal gains on site.
This analysis would help wind farm owners to develop more efficient operation and maintenance strategies, and identify potential underperformance. This can also help them to reduce uncertainty around project production.
Why is it in our shortlist?
The programme's results so far have shown that the certainty of the overall energy yield predictions improved by over 1%. This is an important metric when considering future refinancing or debt investment in a working project.
Furthermore, the project’s net present value increased by over 10%. This increase would positively impact the potential resale or refinancing of the project in the future, for example.
Finally, Natural Power has estimated that the use of ZX TM lidar technology combined with the application of advanced analysis methods have resulted in a 3% reduction of the project’s levelised cost of energy. Impacts on project value and costs reduction have contributed to impress our judges.