Nowadays, offshore wind is grabbing most of the headlines especially in Europe. With several countries running out of land for wind turbines, they are looking towards the sea. However, 80% of the wind energy capacity is still from onshore or inland wind farms. There is still plenty of land in countries like the US and Brazil, which are still looking to develop their onshore wind capacity.
Onshore wind farms occupy a large area and have to frequently co-exist with agricultural land and tourist areas in the countryside. Probably the most complex challenge for these wind farms is to overcome any opposition from the local population. The question that most Wind farm developers have is – How to convince the local population of socio-environmental viability of the Wind farms?
In this era of the Experience economy, the solution is to provide a platform for all citizens to fully understand the impact on their day-to-day life. An immersive and interactive virtual 3D environment can be used to demonstrate the operation of wind farms in context of the local terrain including the details like access roads, local dwellings, roads and even power lines. Views from various vantage points can be analyzed to ensure that any visual impact from the wind turbines is acceptable. Advanced functions like noise and shadow flickers could be developed on this platform. By experiencing the operation of the wind farm under various operating conditions, citizens can be convinced about the project viability and convince them of the co-existence of wind farms in the existing land.
Such user interaction enables citizens and consumers to become part of the Wind farm development process promoting a sense of ownership. It allows the project developers to connect with the local population and ensure that their concerns have been adequately addressed. With the advent of social media, citizens have learnt to express themselves more freely. In several countries, citizens expect and even demand such a platform to view and collaborate on a social platform on such key topics that touch their lives.
Getting early buy-in from all stakeholders including the local population is mandatory during the project development process. This will ensure that there are no expensive delays to the project. Such delays significantly affect the margins and ROI and significantly alter the economics.
Such Experience platforms are frequently used in the other industries like Offshore Oil & gas for Operations and Maintenance and training. Can the Wind industry take advantage of this?
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Karun CHAKRAVARTHY is a member of the Energy, Process & Utilities (EPU) team