After six months relaying coastal wind data in pursuit of sustainable energy, a 5,500-kg bright yellow wind turbine buoy will see its return to shore from near the Trial Islands Ecological Reserve at month’s end for maintenance.
The University of Victoria’s Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery, aiming to reduce coastal communities’ reliance on diesel power and make renewable wind energy more accessible, has been accessing offshore data collected by the buoy since last November. The device uses meteor and ocean sensors to instantly transmit wind speed and behaviour data to researchers on shore and can also perform 3D laser scanning.
Brad Buckham, co-research lead for the project, stated in a November release that this data addresses a knowledge gap that’s preventing floating turbine-generated offshore wind energy from being used elsewhere in B.C.
The research team partnered on the project with the Canadian Coast Guard to initially deploy the buoy and will be retrieving it at the end of July. Chloe Immonen, deployment manager for the buoy, said they will perform maintenance on the device before redeploying it in the same spot by the islands roughly a month later with the help of a different vessel company.
Curran Crawford, the project’s other co-research lead, said it’s been an important learning experience for his team despite a few glitches in the system and challenges with using a newer fuel cell for the buoy.
“It’s a great tool to have in our collection of tools for the investigation of wind energy in B.C.,” Crawford said.
He explained gathering wind information requires fairly long data sequences, hence the six-month project timeline, which they’ve consistently been able to access from the comfort of their desks back on shore.
“There may be individual or First Nations communities interested in wind power.”
Crawford couldn’t reveal which coastal communities are being engaged but added that the device has also drawn positive public curiosity, including from kayakers who’ve sent in close-up photos of the buoy.
For now, a PhD student from Germany is helping Crawford and his team analyze the data sets and assess meteorological conditions affecting local winds.
The researchers aim to permanently deploy more buoys of this sort during 2023 in a manner that’s receptive to the energy wants and needs of coastal communities around B.C.
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