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Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) has announced that it is readying for its third and final research season of offshore wind assessment.

The WindSentinel research buoy, which was constructed by AXYS Technologies and is equipped with a Vindicator laser wind sensor manufactured by Catch the Wind Inc., will be placed about seven miles offshore northwest of the Muskegon Channel in Lake Michigan within the next two weeks.

The buoy will remain in the lake until December, where it will continuously collect data about offshore wind characteristics, along with meteorological, marine and avian data, to help assess the viability of commercial-scale wind energy generation in the Great Lakes.

“Over the last two years, we’ve collected wind data in locations that were previously inaccessible,” says Arnold Boezaart, director of MAREC. “This year, we’re keeping the buoy closer to the shore to collect data that we predict will reinforce the data we collected from last year’s season. We’ll end up with a great representation of wind characteristics on Lake Michigan that can contribute to potential wind energy development.”

The three-year study began in 2011, when the buoy went through a validation study on Muskegon Lake for two months, followed by two months of trials on Lake Michigan. In 2012, the buoy was placed 35 miles west of the Muskegon Channel at the mid-lake plateau in Lake Michigan and captured data at elevations between 90 and 175 meters above the lake surface.

The buoy uses laser pulse technology to capture wind measurements, which is the first time the technique has ever been used on a mobile research platform in open water, according to MAREC.

“Throughout this study, the technology has demonstrated an ability to capture quality wind measurement data as much as 98 percent of the time,” says Boezaart. “We are getting excellent results.”

Project partners include researchers from Michigan Technological University, who are studying wind turbulence; Michigan Natural Features Inventory, a component of the Michigan State University Extension program, who are studying bird and bat activity and confirmed for the first time ever last summer that bats do fly over the Great Lakes; and the University of Michigan, who are conducting research on large data sets.

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