Jessica Sieff | June 5, 2017
A team of close to 50 scientists, students and technical staff is bringing an unprecedented assembly of equipment to Vale do Cobrão, a valley in eastern Portugal. Researchers at the valley are collecting data on multiple aspects of wind flow patterns shaped by meteorological forcing on intricate terrain through carefully planned field observations. Field work on this project, called Perdigão in recognition of a town close to the valley, began May 1 with intense data gathering of measurements including velocity, turbulence, temperature, moisture and radiation.
Vale do Cobrão stretches out beneath two near parallel ridges. At the surface is a mixture of farmland, vegetation, canyons, gullies and a river. The pulp and paper industry makes use of the patches of eucalyptus growing nearby. The wind flow is typically perpendicular to the ridges and can reverse, at times building to powerful gusts. All of this makes for a unique scientific study.
“This is a major paradigm shift from previous field studies,” said Harindra Fernando, principal investigator on the study for the U.S. group and Wayne and Diana Murdy Endowed Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences and the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. “Perdigão will be a leap forward from the early microscale experiments conducted in the late 1970s. Those studies focused on wind flows over a single hill, and the resulting data has been, and continues to be, heavily used today. Perdigão capitalizes on recent technological advances in remote sensing and provides unique coverage, with about 30 scanning and profiling lidar units operating to map the valley atmosphere in coordinated or autonomous modes, and with more than double the sonic anemometers used in previous experiments to examine the lower atmosphere in new and innovative ways.”
The United States and the European Union have expressed interest in increasing wind energy shares of their respective total energy consumption. The U.S. hopes to increase its share from 6 percent to 20 percent by 2030. The EU hopes to see wind energy at 25 percent, up from 16.5 percent currently, by the same year.