An unexpected interplay between wind power and hydroelectric power

Posted on January 11, 2016
Posted By: Harry Valentine
Topic: Wind
 
Hydroelectric power has traditionally depended on predictable weather patterns that deliver a near constant volume of rainfall over the watershed area of power dams. Until recently, methods by which to increase rainfall were theoretical until an unexpected event occurred along the west coast of England, where wind turbines had been installed along the coast of the Irish Sea. Powerful, moisture laden winds blow inland off the Irish Sea and between the blades of the coastal turbines that behaved like all other turbines that cool the working airstream and reduced the air temperature by several degrees.

The result was coastal fog downwind of the turbines. When coastal winds blow moisture laden air inland and especially up the slopes or through narrowing valleys of coastal mountains, the airstream is forced to flow through reduced cross-sectional area when measured between sea level and perhaps an elevation of 10,000-ft. The less dense air at the higher elevation usually flows at much higher velocity than the denser air that flows closer to ocean surface. As the incoming air flows at higher velocity through narrowing valleys and up coastal slopes, the air temperature drops to produce fog or cloud.

If the air temperature cools sufficiently, rainfall will occur at the higher elevations and over the watershed area of power dams and/or storage dams. However, changing weather patterns could result in increased air and land temperatures, reducing prospects for rainfall or related precipitation. The coastal precedent from the west coast of England offers a method by which to cool the temperature of an incoming airstream of moisture laden air at higher elevation, by installing wind turbines at strategic locations on mountain slopes and along valleys, upstream of the watershed areas of rivers that supply storage dams.

There are several locations around the world where storage dams are located in coastal mountains or in mountains near to the coast. North America's largest hydroelectric power installation is located at the higher elevations of the Province of Quebec, Canada and to the east of the expansive Hudson Bay and smaller James Bay. Prevailing wind blows over Hudson Bay and carries moisture inland. There is scope to install wind turbines downwind of Hudson Bay and upwind of the water shed areas of Hydro Quebec's James Bay hydroelectric installations, with the prospect of assuring rainfall during warmer weather.

Along the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean, winds blow moisture laden winds inland toward the Andes Mountains of South America and the Rocky Mountains of Canada, while winds that blow across over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea carry moisture toward the Sierra Madre of Central America. Moisture laden summer winds blow from ocean across the Western Ghats of India and Highlands of Ethiopia. There are numerous locations in all these mountains where installation of wind turbines located upwind of the watershed areas, may be possible and with the prospect of increasing local rainfall.

Fog fences that are made from woven mesh material such have the ability to collect water droplets from moisture laden that passes through them. While some woven mesh fabric materials are vulnerable to damage by intense UV-light, fog fences made of UV-resistant and corrosion-resistant mesh such as fiber glass or woven stainless steel mesh offer greatly extended service lives and can be installed downwind of wind turbines in mountainous locations. The combination of 2-technologies that can cool the humid airstream to produce fog and then extract some of the moisture can enhance living conditions at many locations.

The discovery of wind turbines generating fog along the Irish Sea coast of the UK offers operators of hydroelectric power dams a method by which to either increase the volume of rainfall in their watershed region. Alternatively, cooling the humid airstream as it enters the watershed region enhances the prospect of producing some rainfall during periods of possible drought. Changing weather patterns can raise the dew point temperatures in the watershed regions of some power and storage dams, as occurs in British Columbia, Canada that on occasion has had to impose municipal water restrictions at Vancouver.

There are several methods by which to increase the amount of moisture that coastal winds may carry from sea to coastal mountain. Modifying the structure of the coast line can increase the amount of coastal sea spray that occurs as waves break along the shore while evaporation from the sea spray moves inland. Installing vertical axis turbines on pontoons can produce an upward moving stream of air that can pump ocean surface humidity to higher elevation and toward the wind turbines. There may be scope to modify thermal technology to generate controlled waterspouts offshore and along the coast.

Much of the sea spray that is blown upward would evaporate as sea salt drops back to earth as coastal winds push the additional humidity toward the higher elevation in coastal mountains and toward high elevation wind farms. Low-grade geothermal or concentrated solar thermal energy from a nearby solar thermal farm can collect the thermal energy needed to operate controlled water spouts near the coast. A lack of rainfall or possible drought could encourage state officials in many countries to encourage the installation of water producing or water harvesting technologies on the ocean and in the mountains.

Conclusion:

Thermodynamic theory advises that hot gases passing through a turbine of a venture will transfer thermal energy, with the exhaust temperature being significantly cooler than the inlet temperature. Precedent along the west coast of the UK has shown that wind turbines can cool incoming, moisture laden coastal winds and produce mist and fog. The theory and the precedent suggest that strategically placing wind turbines upwind of or at the entrances of watershed areas would increase the likelihood of precipitation, perhaps even during periods of warmer-than-usual ambient seasonal temperatures.

Strategically placed wind turbines offer the prospect of assuring rainfall in the watershed areas that supply water to hydroelectric storage dams. There are numerous locations internationally where moisture laden winds blow from ocean toward, up and over coastal mountains where dams are located. At the present time, very few if any wind turbines are located upwind of watershed areas that supply water to dams. The absence represents a possible future development opportunity.

 
 
Authored By:
Harry Valentine holds a degree in engineering and has a backround in free-market economics. He has undertaken extensive research into the field of transportation energy over a period of 20-years and has published numerous technical articles on the subject. His economics commentaries have included several articles on issues that pertain to electric power generation. He lives in Canada and can be reached by e-mail at harryc@ontarioeast.net .
 

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Comments

January, 11 2016

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I pity the poor soul who is driving in the man-made coastal fog and gets hit by a 40 ton truck he did not see and whose driver could not see him. I can see the BBC headlines now "Hazardous windmills a growing danger as motorists (and birds) killed by fogs-creating wind machines". Or "anthropomorphic cloud formations irreversably alter local weather patterns as a result of wind generation machines".....oh sorry the media reserve such outlandish statements only for nuclear power plants or perhaps am I just getting a tad sarcastic in my old age.

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