UN maps global wind resource as tool for pre-investment

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Wind developers looking for the best wind sites in developing countries may be able to shave 12 months or more from the time it takes to gather sufficient wind data under a new project by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) is a three year, $6 million pilot effort financed by the World Bank's Global Environment Facility to eventually map the world's solar and wind energy resources. SWERA's Tom Hamlin says the project will initially concentrate on 13 developing countries to create "a global, high resolution data archive" while developing new informational tools for energy planners and project developers. The countries include Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka. SWERA information will be available free of charge on-line. Wind energy density maps, using a number of wind resource assessment programs from national institutes in Germany, Denmark, the US and India, will be compiled from data complied in high-resolution, one kilometre grids using a combination of balloon data, ocean surface roughness satellite data and ground measurements. Low resolution maps will be avoided as they most often under represent the wind resource, says Hamlin. The use of several programs allows UNEP to assess more terrain to identify the best wind sites with greater accuracy, including valleys and rough terrain areas that are often overlooked, says Hamlin. It will also allow comparison of different types and sources of data. Hamlin said the new information tools, including the inclusion of SWERA information into the popular RETScreen software tool, will help developers screen wind locations at the pre-investment planning stage of projects.

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