Vaisala's Triton Withstands Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew
Naomi Stringfield
Dec 14, 2016
Renewable Energy

Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc along the Caribbean and southeastern United States from late September through early October, was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in nearly a decade. The event was deadly and destructive, claiming the lives of up to 1,600 people and causing an estimated $10.5 billion in damages, making it the mostly costly tropical storm since Hurricane Sandy.

Matthew first made landfall in Haiti where it took by far its greatest toll. Yet the coastal Southeast U.S. – where the hurricane made its fourth and final landfall – still experienced significant impacts. In this region, widespread flooding and wind speeds up to 75 miles per hour (~34 meters per second) caused 49 deaths and triggered power outages affecting some 1.5 million people.

Triton deployed in St CroixAmid this catastrophic event, Vaisala wind energy technicians watched with rapt attention the Skyserve data feed from a Triton remote sensor located along the southeastern shoreline of the U.S. The Triton remote sensor is a ground-based device that uses SoDAR technology to capture wind measurements at heights up to 200 meters. The unit was deployed for wind resource assessment purposes to help characterize wind conditions at turbine hub heights. This is critical information that guides project design decisions and energy production estimates.

As you might imagine, the loss of the unit to the storm would have had a large impact on the client's project budget and timeline. Data gaps, delays, and increased costs due to repairs or replacement are unwelcome inconveniences at best and potential project killers at worst.  

When the hurricane path swept over the site, barometric pressure readings dipped and artifacts in the data illustrate the chaotic and forceful nature of the storm's powerful winds. Yet, without any special prep or precautionary measures, the Triton easily powered through the storm, risked getting flooded during its surge, and went right back to normal operations after it passed as if nothing had happened.

Incidents like this one highlight the importance of designing equipment with durability in mind. Vaisala's Triton was built to withstand wind speeds up to 100 miles per hour (~45 meters per second) and perform reliably even in extreme high or low temperatures. Along with its mobility and compact size, these specifications provide major advantages to developers over traditional met towers that often fail to survive or perform in major storms or adverse weather conditions.

Hurricane dataProven ruggedness is a substantial benefit as global wind capacity grows and traditional wind markets reach a saturation point, forcing developers to venture more and more into less benign operating environments. This includes places like Central Canada, Scandinavia, or the South China Sea where sub-zero temperatures or major tropical storms are not uncommon. The cold weather market, for example, is one of the fastest-growing areas of the industry with projected annual growth of 12 GW for the next four years. 

Selecting measurement devices that can withstand extreme weather​, particularly under these testing circumstances, thus becomes even more important for conducting the detailed site assessments required to appropriately design a wind project and forecast its performance.

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