Grand Valley Wind Study Buoy Now 35 Miles Offshore In Lake Michigan

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The Grand Valley State University research buoy 35 miles out in Lake Michigan measures the potential for wind power on an underwater ridge that comes close to the surface in the middle of the lake. Photo: GVSU

The Grand Valley State University research buoy 35 miles out in Lake Michigan measures the potential for wind power on an underwater ridge that comes close to the surface in the middle of the lake. Photo: GVSU

MUSKEGON — The research buoy that is collecting data for Grand Valley State University’s offshore wind assessment was placed 35 miles offshore of Lake Michigan May 7, where it is planned to remain until December.

The buoy is to collect data about offshore wind characteristics continuously, along with meteorological, marine and avian data, to help assess the viability of commercial-scale wind energy generation in the Great Lakes.

The buoy can now collect wind measurements up to 175 meters high, which is the same height as next-generation wind turbines currently being marketed, said Arn Boezaart, director of Grand Valley’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center.

“The data collected with have considerable ‘shelf life’ value for research purposes,” he said. “Using a floating research platform to collect wind measurements that high up has never been done before on the Great Lakes or in North America. This is also the first time a research buoy of this type will operate this far offshore. Project supporters across North America are eagerly waiting for the research results.”

Researchers have not had this kind of real-time field data before, said Jim Edmonson, project manager of the study. He said the measurements will be especially interesting because the mid-lake plateau, where the buoy was placed, is expected to have very high wind energy potential.

“It will continue to give manufacturers of the buoy the opportunity to push the limits of the technology for our benefit, to obtain even more valuable data,” Edmonson said.

Boezaart said data retrieval from the buoy will take place mainly by satellite due to its remote location.

“We’ll physically visit the buoy site every 30-45 days to collect data from the computer data cards, which will be processed by Grand Valley researchers in our School of Engineering and passed on to researchers in other areas,” Boezaart said.

As part of the six-hour trip to its stationary location on the lake, a lake bottom survey was completed to inspect the location where the five-ton anchor was dropped and to comply with regulatory requirements.

The primary objective of the Lake Michigan offshore wind assessment project is to gain a better understanding of offshore wind characteristics and dynamics, as well as potential wind energy. Other related physical, biological and environmental characteristics related to Great Lakes wind will be evaluated, including water quality characteristics, the water and air boundary layer, and bird and bat activity. Data collected will be used by NOAA’s National Weather Service in preparation of its marine forecasts.

The research buoy, one of two such research platforms in the world, is an six-ton, 20-by-10 foot boat-shaped structure that can measure wind characteristics up to 175 meters above the water using advanced laser pulse and Doppler wind sensing technology in remote locations. It was constructed by Axys Technologies of British Columbia, Canada, and is equipped with a Vindicator laser wind sensor manufactured by Catch the Wind Inc. of Virginia.

Learn more about the Lake Michigan offshore wind assessment at www.gvsu.edu/marec.

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