The Redwood City wind resource assessment project started during winter quarter 2008 when SWEP was looking for suitable locations to site its 10m and 50m wind meteorological towers. These towers would measure wind speed and direction to assess the cost-effectiveness of installing wind turbines for electricity generation. The wind resource on campus was determined to be poor, so SWEP expanded the search beyond campus grounds. Wind modeling work done by SWEP member and PhD student Mike Dvorak identified several locations in the Bay Area with potentially suitable winds for large scale wind energy. After validating Mike's model and initiating discussion with multiple municipalities in the Bay Area, SWEP formed a partnership with CEMEX, a cement company at the tip of the Port of Redwood City (location with the least wind obstruction). There was not enough available land area to install the 50m tower, but CEMEX has a tall (~140ft) silo stockhouse building with a raised platform that would allow SWEP to erect part of their 10m wind tower and gather wind data from about a 50m height. It is believed that there is no turbulence interference with the wind data from the building, since the instruments are far enough away from the building surface (the raised platform is about 20ft above the surface, and the tower is another 15ft above that). The 50m tower has since been installed in the Salinas Valley.
The winds in the CEMEX location are particularly promising because they are peak coincident (peak winds occur when peak electric loads occur), which is due to the strong sea breeze effect (strong winds during the afternoon, especially in the summer, as the land becomes warmer than the cool ocean, resulting in a strong pressure difference). This location has a large electric load from the heavy industrial operations along the Port, and it also has multiple nearby substations and high-tension power lines, making it well-suited for a potential wind energy producing site. However, permitting challenges are anticipated from the nearby wildlife refuges on Bair and Greco Islands.
Recent Progress and Future Plans
Ultimately, SWEP hopes the data will support the development of a Stanford-affiliated wind farm (probably turbines on the order of 1MW or less each) at the Port, which could offer economic benefits to both Stanford and the Port (CEMEX in particular). Just as importantly, however, SWEP desires for this to be an educational experience which will allow students to potentially experience a renewable energy project from start to finish. Finally, SWEP envisions that Stanford affiliated groups (including other student groups and classes) and community members could visit both locations (should the projects proceed to the turbine phase) to learn from and be inspired by these projects.
Want to Get Involved? We welcome help from any student, with any background, and with any level of experience. To get involved with this project, please email the project leader Bethany Corcoran.
Many thanks to the project sponsors:
Stanford School of Engineering
Atmosphere/Energy Program, CEE Department, Stanford
And to our project partner who helped make it happen: