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Canada

Researching impact of ice build-up

Hélimax, a wind industry consulting firm in Montreal, has installed testing equipment to observe and measure the effects of icing and freezing rain on GE Energy wind turbines at the 109.5 MW Baie-des-Sables wind farm on Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula. The research project, designed to collect data over two complete winters, will provide invaluable information that will help refine methodologies for detecting icing and quantifying its impact on turbine performance, says Richard Legault, Hélimax's president and founder.

The Gaspésie is an ideal place to do this kind of work, he says, and not just because of the substantial wind energy development taking place there. "It is also an area where, with the frequency of temperatures below 0┬íC and high levels of humidity due to the proximity of the St Lawrence River, there is significant potential for icing, specifically in-cloud icing."

Because the test bench is located within an operational wind farm, he adds, it will be possible to make correlations between collected meteorological data and power production data during icing occurrences.

Legault says the degree of power losses likely to be incurred by wind turbines during icing occurrences is just one area where knowledge is lacking. "Research has been conducted in other sectors, such as transmission lines. However, such studies have largely tended to concentrate more on precipitation icing rather than in-cloud icing," he explains.

Neither is much known about how to measure and monitor atmospheric icing, Legault says. The Quebec project will test the suitability of using conventional meteorological instruments to indirectly measure icing occurrences by comparing their data with that collected by specialised ice measuring equipment, and with real-time photos of the test bench. The project is also expected to provide information to the wind industry on questions like the types of icing and the periods of accumulation, duration and melting, says Legault.

Partners in the research project include Cartier Wind Energy, which owns Baie-des-Sables, and the University of Quebec's École de Technologie Supérieure.

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