Wind Power Feasibility in North Carolina Hansen L.M. 2005. Can wind be a "firm” resource? A North Carolina case study. Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, 15 (2):341-381. Nicholas Holcomb, Geography, GEOG 370, 2/26/08
Problem: In many places wind power is being used as an alternative to fossil fuels. Potential wind power sites must have a relatively high average wind speed to make the construction of wind turbines economical. Overall, North Carolina has poor wind speeds, with the exception of the coast and its western mountain ridges. Hypothesis: Geographically distributing wind power sites across the state will decrease North Carolina’s wind speed variability enough to make wind power a clean and profitable solution that energy companies will invest in.
Site: There were three sites chosen for testing; two in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, and one on the North Carolina coast. The specific locations were not given because the energy company interested in the results didn’t want other companies to see the data. Methods: To get an exact mean wind speed for each site data was collected by an anemometer, which took a measure of the wind speed every few seconds. These measurements were averaged together every ten minutes. These ten minute means could be used to comprise a time plot of average wind speed, spanning weeks, months, or a year.
Results: During months of peak energy consumption, January and August, average wind speed at the three sites was sporadic. The mountain sites had a negative correlation with the coastal site, so across the state there is a consistent and reliable average wind speed. Out of a maximum turbine capacity of 1650 kW, wind turbines across the three sites could potentially produce 340 kW in January and 110 kW in August.
Conclusions: Geographically dispersing wind farms and considering their output together rather than individually, significantly reduces the variability of North Carolina’s wind system. This stable average wind speed could be used as an efficient energy resource, especially during the months of peak energy consumption. The conclusion does not address what months wind speed is highest overall.