The recent Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas showcased Segway mounted electronic butlers, virtual reality headsets and the latest electric supercars. Not to be left out of the fun I thought it’s time to see, if wind farm engineering needs an electronic shake up and if its time to embrace a favourite man-toy: the Drone.
Wind Farm Development in the Data Age
Wind farm development is truly going global and with technology advances it’s possible to have a client based in Milan, a consultant in Amsterdam and the project in the South of Brazil. Traditionally as development proceeds the developer must introduce interested consultants and contractors along with potential investors to the project site by means of sharing masses of documents, preparing an information memorandum and conducting site visits and follow up clarifications. That’s before any commitment is made.
This is extremely time consuming for the developer. So what if there was a way to make this process more efficient and also have best-in-class data capture from surveys which can reduce risks of errors in wind farm design. That’s where the drone comes in and below I detail where I see the benefits of using drone for wind farm engineering your wind farm.
What is the extent of properties and local population that can see your WTG? A Hub Height visibility study using a drone can provide some very clear answers to this question.
Accuracy is comparable to best alternative traditional technology. As larger areas can be surveyed quicker and benefit from economies of scale surveys can be extended from the minimal selected areas for traditional surveys to larger grids which can assist with terrain models for wind surveys, long distance grid connection routes and alternative WTG access possibilities. For optimum results the survey results should be tied into a GIS database
It’s always important to visit site but with best-in-class survey data it’s possible for all parties to be as well prepared in advance and to make maximum benefit of trips to site. Seeing is believing but a well completed advance survey shared and viewable from the comforts of the office reduce risks of inconclusive site visits due to poor visibility (fog, rain etc.) on the appointed day of the visit.
Geotechnical & Hydrogeological Investigations
A drone video can help identify quarries, drainage and flooding characteristics that may not be so clear on maps etc.
Site Access and Design
A fly over survey can provide you with a full data of all existing and proposed site roads giving geometric properties and surface condition of all roads under the developers responsibility. Traditionally surveys of roads at a distance from the WTGs are not surveyed in detail by developers due to cost and time constraints. Better data means being able to foresee and resolve problem issues before OEMs do detailed access studies.
This can be useful for attracting investors during the due diligence phase (see also Topographical Survey above). It should be noted that although Google Maps can be very useful for desktop viewing of sites their maps can be out of date or isn’t completed for remote areas. Using visualisation software pre-construction sites can be compared with a future operational phase i.e. present and future site views.
As Built Surveys can be prepared quickly to act as the definitive survey deliverable or to check contractors submitted surveys.