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17 March 2010

Eye on the Wind: Innovations Designed to "See" and Track Gusts

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Catch the wind is hailing recent trials of its laser-based system for sensing wind speed, direction and variation that it claims can improve performance and reduce costs

High-technology company Catch the Wind is commercialising a nacelle-mounted, forward-looking system capable of sensing both wind speed and direction, as well as rapid wind variations. In December 2009, the company released striking trial test results for the innovative lightweight technology, claimed as unique and named the Vindicator Laser Wind Sensor (LWS).

Virginia-based Catch the Wind is a spin-off of US-based Optical Air Data Systems (OADS). The latter, founded in 1990 near Washington DC, is a leader in fibre-opticpulsed Lidar (Light Detection And Ranging) systems, an optical remote sensing technology.

Building upon 19 years of aerospace research know-how and experience, Catch the Wind, which was founded in September 2008, acquired a technology license from OADS for all its commercial (non-aviation) applications. The Vindicator LWS uses advanced laser technology combined with Doppler radar techniques to analyze air particle movement and determine wind speed and direction. The use of Vindicator LWS is primarily intended for improving the performance of wind turbines, resulting in higher energy production and reduced lifetime maintenance costs.

One major reliability and operational lifetime enhancing factor is a substantially reduced off-axis turbine loading due to optimised rotor alignment to the prevailing, but continuously changing, direction of the wind encountered by the turbine.


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