Researchers collaborating on the SOPCAWIND project have developed software to optimize wind farm placement, in order to reduce noise, environmental impact, and telecommunications interference.
Wind farms, while a valuable and viable source of energy, reportedly meeting up to 8 percent of Europe’s energy needs, are accompanied by significant drawbacks; namely, noise disturbance, interference with telecommunications and air traffic control radar, environmental impacts, and even shadow exposure on nearby houses.
To counteract these negatives, the Software for the Optimal Place Calculation for Wind Farms project, also known as the SOPCAWIND project, conducted by Tecnalia’s Signal Processing and Radiocommunications Group (TSR), along with the University of the Basque Country and other partners, has developed a software tool to optimize wind farm location.
“The fundamental parameter to take into account when designing a wind farm is the wind or wind potential,” Daniel de la Vega, a scientist at TSR, said in a recent press release. “Another very important factor is the orography of the land. Apart from these two main factors, the environmental factor and perhaps not such obvious factors like the telecommunications services (weather radars, air traffic control radars, radionavigation aids, television, data radio links, etc.) also feature. ”
The SOPCAWIND software, recently presented at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) Annual Event, uses a multidisciplinary database to take into account such diverse factors as energy productivity, environmental characteristics, acoustic noise, visual impact (such as the effect of shadows on nearby houses), and importantly, telecommunication interference. Factoring in these concerns early into the design process of wind farms could not only reduce their impact, potential cost and interference on the surrounding environment, but also maximize productivity and efficiency..
“Thanks to this tool, firstly the design process of the wind farm is much more fluid, and secondly, the developer knows in advance if there is any trouble and can include modifications in the wind farm in order to avoid it, which is a key aspect,” De la Vega explained.
SOPCAWIND uses a multidisciplinary database, paired with algorithms designed by TSR, to measure, evaluate, and work around the interference that wind farms could wreak on telecommunication systems.
“We have developed the algorithms to find out the impact caused by wind farms on telecommunications systems (TV, data radio links, radars and air navigation aids) and we have incorporated them into the tool,” De la Vega said.
The SOPCAWIND teams’ field research, published in the article “Impact analysis of wind farms on telecommunication services,” involved identifying the signal that wind turbines emitted over the UHF waveband, and then measuring its impact on television signal quality.
“Although interference is not common, a wind farm can alter a radar signal that is 10-20 kilometers away,” De la Vega said. “Because these impact studies are conducted before the wind farm is built, they allow potential interference to be detected if it does in fact exist, and so the wind farm developer will be able to include modifications in the design of the wind farm in order to prevent such trouble.”
In its conclusion, the report stressed “the necessity of carrying out further studies on this topic, in order to achieve a better characterization of the phenomena, specially aided by real measurements, and obtain harmonized protection criteria.”
According to SOPCAWIND scientists, the results of this research could potentially influence legislation or even international regulations dealing with this important topic.
– Melanie Abeygunawardana