Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Measuring Snow With A Bucket, A Windmill, And The Sun? Government Goes Off The Power Grid In Maine

Date:
May 9, 2009
Source:
U.S. Geological Survey
Summary:
In Maine, government scientists have figured out how to measure snowfall in remote areas with a bucket, a small windmill, and the sun -- all the while saving money, energy, and, ultimately helping to save lives.

A new device to measure snowfall in remote areas is pictured here with its solar panels, small windmill, and snow-collecting bucket.
Credit: Image courtesy of USGS

In Maine, government scientists have figured out how to measure snowfall in remote areas with a bucket, a small windmill, and the sun -- all the while saving money, energy, and, ultimately helping to save lives.

What led to this energy-efficient ingenuity was the need to help the National Weather Service forecast and predict the risk of floods from spring snowmelt.

The problem was this: While the USGS has about 15 snowmelt measurement sites in Maine, they also needed a way to measure snowfall in remote areas where power grids are scarce. Emergency managers need accurate information to prepare for forthcoming hazards and energy companies need to plan ahead for how much water to expect in reservoirs.

"We needed to find an alternative power source," said Bob Lent, chief of the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta. "So we cobbled together a small-scale commercial windmill to replace commercial AC power, and supplemented the windmill with solar panels. What we ended up with is a windmill that powers our measurements on windy and cloudy days, and solar panels that power them on calm, sunny days," said Lent. "And," he added, "not only will we get more accurate information, but the systems will pay for themselves in about 3 to 4 years since using the electricity-dependent devices cost between $200 and $400 a year."

A prototype system has been housed in use at the USGS office in Augusta for the past winter. It has proved so accurate, said Lent, that the USGS plans to install four snowfall sites around the state this summer using the same system.

Basically, the system looks like this: a gage is attached to a 5-gallon bucket that sits atop a simple wooden platform on a metal pole. The gage has a heating element to melt the snow as it collects in the cone of the bucket. The gage only turns on when snow is detected. Nearby is a data-collection box that is linked to the windmill and solar panels. When the bucket fills up with melted snow it tips over and empties. Each tip of the bucket measures 0.01 inches of precipitation and is recorded to the data recorder, which transmits the data and is updated on the web every hour.

"We are very optimistic about the utility of this system in other remote areas in the country and not just for snowfall measurements. It would be good for any remote site that needs more power than solar alone can deliver. For example, this could be used to measure water quality in the swamps of Florida as well as snowfall in Maine," Lent noted.

"It's a very small step in a very long journey of helping this country become greener, but this embodies what we need to be doing and the direction in which we need to be going," said Lent.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by U.S. Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

U.S. Geological Survey. "Measuring Snow With A Bucket, A Windmill, And The Sun? Government Goes Off The Power Grid In Maine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090430092530.htm>.
U.S. Geological Survey. (2009, May 9). Measuring Snow With A Bucket, A Windmill, And The Sun? Government Goes Off The Power Grid In Maine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090430092530.htm
U.S. Geological Survey. "Measuring Snow With A Bucket, A Windmill, And The Sun? Government Goes Off The Power Grid In Maine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090430092530.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins