But to mine it you first must find it, and a revamped website now provides an extremely easy way to do just that. While all that glitters is indeed not gold, this precious resource is far more valuable – wind.
3Tier’s website tool FirstLook allows average Internet users to mine their neighborhoods for wind power potential. Users familiar with Google Maps will feel right at ease with the software, which offers wind assessment for all of North America. For those of us fooled by intentionally vague oil and gas ads, that region includes the US, Canada and Mexico.
Users can type in their town and state, and the site will direct a cursor to the spot. The wind prospector then zooms in for a more detailed view of the resource’s potential for that area. For greater precision, coordinates can be fed into the search in lieu of a town or state. FirstLook essentially puts a push pin in the area of the user’s choice, providing detailed reports of wind resources at that site.
The wind’s potential around that site is represented by what seems a thermal image, with cool blue lying at the lower and of the spectrum. Yellows, oranges and reds are hot zones, places where wind resources are strong and steady. Size matters, as those colors change when users click the height of their theoretical wind turbine. The potential for wind power in a given area grows when a taller turbine is selected.
Loftier turbines harness more energy due to the wind’s rocky relationship with earth’s surface features. Hills and other contours can confound the wind’s flow, acting as ramps which send air currents flowing upward and sideways from their desired path. Offshore wind power owes its great potential to the flat and unobstructed plane the ocean provides.
While the site’s tools allow a free look at the wind potential in a given area, there is a cost for a far more detailed report of a specific wind site. The detailed report focuses the wind’s potential down to the hour. The fee may be prohibitive for the average and simply curious user, but reasonable for a town or city investigating its wind potential.
Many smaller communities are doing just that, seeking to take the lead and responsibility for their own power generation and carbon footprint.
Here in Massachusetts, the town of Hull could make use of 3Tier’s wind evaluation site. The tiny town has plans to add four turbines. A quick survey of Hull with FirstLook shows the town bathed in orange and red, great territory for mining wind. Yet Hull needs no lessons on turbine location and building, as it already has two.