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Proceedings Paper

VisibleWind: wind profile measurements at low altitude
Author(s): Tom Wilkerson; Bill Bradford; Alan Marchant; Tom Apedaile; Cordell Wright
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Paper Abstract

VisibleWindTM is developing an inexpensive rapid response system, for accurately characterizing wind shear and small scale wind phenomena in the boundary layer and for prospecting suitable locations for wind power turbines. The ValidWind system can also collect reliable "ground truth" for other remote wind sensors. The system employs small (0.25 m dia.) lightweight balloons and a tracker consisting of an Impulse 200 XL laser rangefinder coupled to a PC for automated data recording. Experiments on balloon trajectories demonstrate that the laser detection of range (± 0.5 m), together with measured azimuth and altitude, is an inexpensive, convenient, and capable alternative to other wind tracking methods. The maximum detection range has been increased to 2200 meters using micro-corner-cube retroreflector tape on balloons. Low power LEDs enable nighttime tracking. To avoid large balloon gyrations about the mean trajectory, we use balloons having low ascent rates and subcritical Reynolds numbers. Trajectory points are typically recorded every 4 - 7 seconds. Atmospheric features observed under conditions of inversions or "light and variable winds" include abrupt onsets of shear at altitudes of 100-250 m, velocity changes of order 1-3 m/s within layers of 10-20 m thickness, and veering of the wind direction by 180 degrees or more as altitude increases from 300 to 500 m. We have previously reported comparisons of balloon-based wind profiles with the output of a co-located sodar. Even with the Impulse rangefinder, our system still requires a "man in the loop" to track the balloon. A future system enhancement will automate balloon tracking, so that laser returns are obtained automatically at 1 Hz. While balloon measurements of large-scale, high altitude wind profiles are well known, this novel measurement system provides high-resolution, real-time characterization of the fluctuating local wind fields at the bottom of the boundary layer where wind power turbines and other remote wind sensors must operate.

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 October 2009
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 7479, Lidar Technologies, Techniques, and Measurements for Atmospheric Remote Sensing V, 74790L (9 October 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.832046
Show Author Affiliations
Tom Wilkerson, Utah State Univ. (United States)
Bill Bradford, Utah State Univ. (United States)
Alan Marchant, Utah State Univ. (United States)
Tom Apedaile, Utah State Univ. (United States)
Cordell Wright, Utah State Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7479:
Lidar Technologies, Techniques, and Measurements for Atmospheric Remote Sensing V
Upendra N. Singh; Gelsomina Pappalardo, Editor(s)

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