The importance of accurate wind resource assessment for evaluating the economic viability of small wind turbines
Drew, D. R., Barlow, J. F., Cockerill, T. T. and Vahdati, M. M. (2015) The importance of accurate wind resource assessment for evaluating the economic viability of small wind turbines. Renewable Energy, 77. pp. 493-500. ISSN 0960-1481
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2014.12.032
The techno-economic performance of a small wind turbine is very sensitive to the available wind resource. However, due to financial and practical constraints installers rely on low resolution wind speed databases to assess a potential site. This study investigates whether the two site assessment tools currently used in the UK, NOABL or the Energy Saving Trust wind speed estimator, are accurate enough to estimate the techno-economic performance of a small wind turbine. Both the tools tend to overestimate the wind speed, with a mean error of 23% and 18% for the NOABL and Energy Saving Trust tool respectively. A techno-economic assessment of 33 small wind turbines at each site has shown that these errors can have a significant impact on the estimated load factor of an installation. Consequently, site/turbine combinations which are not economically viable can be predicted to be viable. Furthermore, both models tend to underestimate the wind resource at relatively high wind speed sites, this can lead to missed opportunities as economically viable turbine/site combinations are predicted to be non-viable. These results show that a better understanding of the local wind resource is a required to make small wind turbines a viable technology in the UK.