Devices measuring wind and solar energy are up and running on St. Thomas and St. Croix, collecting data that will move the U.S. Virgin Islands closer to a future of clean energy, the V.I. Energy Office announced Friday.
The project began Dec. 4 at the Bovoni landfill and was completed Wednesday on the eastern South Shore of St. Croix. On each island, one anemometer tower was erected.
The towers are about 200 feet high, two-thirds as high as a football field is long. The Energy Office also installed a device to measure wind using sonar, and a solar pyrometer to measure solar radiation.
“Overall, the project so far has been a success – the devices, when they went up, immediately began collecting data,” said Carl Joseph, energy analyst with the Energy Office.
The towers will stay in place and collect data for at least a year. Energy Office Director Karl Knight said the data will be used by the Water and Power Authority to develop plans for a utility-scale wind farm.
“We are very excited about the potential of wind development,” Knight said.
Most of the $270,000 used to fund the project came from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but some local money also contributed, the Energy Office news release said. The project falls under the auspices of Energy Development in Island Nations initiative, known as EDIN. The territory’s energy plan calls for the reduction of fossil fuel use in the Virgin Island by 60 percent by 2025.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is giving technical assistance to the Energy Office on this project helped write the plan, called "USVI Energy Road Map, Charting the Course to a Clean Energy Future." The plan estimated wind power could provide from 12 to 33 megawatts of electricity for the Virgin Islands.
The office has indicated the sites being tested have enough wind to make sense for development, but hard, "bankable" data is required. In other words, it will increase the confidence of potential investors in wind and solar resources on both islands, according to the statement.
“The goal of this project is to collect data that meets or exceeds North American industry standards for developable solar and wind projects to help attract potential developers of renewable energy projects,” said Joseph Roberts, senior wind engineer for the NREL.
The towers measure wind speed and direction at three different heights: 115 feet, 155 feet and 190 feet.
The wind detecting sonar, called SODAR for Sonic Detection and Ranging, has become more acceptable in recent years. The Energy Office believes that using SODAR in conjunction with the tower data will give precise and very reliable data.
The pyrometers will gather information that will be valuable to solar project developers. Most solar developers, when working on the Virgin Islands, have to refer to solar irradiation data gathered in Puerto Rico. This new data will be specific to the V.I.
A third planned tower was damaged and will be erected at a later date.
David Smith of the University of the Virgin Islands will lead monitoring of the equipment and data and keep the instrumentation up to speed.
The report on the opportunities for a wind farm on St. Thomas is available online at the NREL website. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/55415.pdf.
General information about the EDIN-USVI initiative is at http://www.edinenergy.org/usvi.html. Data gathered from the units will soon be available at http://www.nrel.gov/midc/.