The SOPCAWIND tool is a piece of software that facilitates the design of wind farms, bearing in mind not only the aspects of energy productivity but also the possible impact the wind farm may have on the environment, radars or other telecommunications systems in the vicinity. It also assesses acoustic noise, the effect of shadow on nearby housing, and applies criteria for heritage protection or clearance from transport networks and certain facilities. The EWEA 2014 Annual Event, the most important trade fair in Europe in the area of wind energy, was the framework in which the SOPCAWIND software tool was presented recently, and in which the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country's Signal Processing and Radiocommunications Group (TSR) participated.
The development of a wind farm is a process in which various factors need to be taken into consideration to ensure that the resource is properly used and that appropriate planning is carried out to minimise the effects it could have. "The fundamental parameter to take into account when designing a wind farm is the wind or wind potential. Another very important factor is the orography of the land," explained David de la Vega, a member of the Signal Processing and Radiocommunications Group (TSR). "Apart from these two main factors, the environmental factor and perhaps not such obvious factors like the telecommunications services (weather radars, air traffic control radars, radionavigation aids, television, data radio links, etc.) also feature," added la Vega. What happens in many cases is that the telecommunications service may not located next to the farm, and "although interference is not common, a wind farm can alter a radar signal that is 10-20 kilometres away," stressed the researcher in the Signal Processing and Radiocommunications Group (TSR).
Thanks to the European SOPCAWIND project, the UPV/EHU's TSR group is participating in the development of a tool to facilitate the design of wind farms, bearing in mind not only the aspects of energy productivity but also the possible impact they could have on the environment, radars or other telecommunications systems.
SOPCAWIND is the first software tool that integrates into a single application a complex, multidisciplinary database that accommodates all the data needed for the above-mentioned criteria, apart from the algorithms needed to carry out these studies. With all these functionalities, the tool facilitates the design work of the wind farm developer and makes it possible to ensure that all the above-mentioned aspects are taken into consideration in the wind farm design process, thus avoiding any trouble. "Thanks to this tool, firstly the design process of the wind farm is much more fluid, and secondly, the developer knows in advance if there is any trouble and can include modifications in the wind farm in order to avoid it, which is a key aspect," pointed out Daniel de la Vega.
The UPV/EHU's Signal Processing and Radiocommunications Group (TSR) has contributed mainly with the algorithms that enable possible impact on radars, air navigation system aids and other telecommunications systems to be evaluated. "We have developed the algorithms to find out the impact caused by wind farms on telecommunications systems (TV, data radio links, radars and air navigation aids) and we have incorporated them into the tool," explained de la Vega.
"Because these impact studies are conducted before the wind farm is built, they allow potential interference to be detected if it does in fact exist, and so the wind farm developer will be able to include modifications in the design of the wind farm in order to prevent that trouble," pointed out de la Vega. That way, the impact studies allow the wind energy to be developed without degrading the existing telecommunications systems.
The SOPCAWIND project has been supported by the European Union within the FP7 programme (FP7-ICT- 2011-SME-DCL Grant Agreement 296164), and has been developed by a European consortium comprising Tecnalia, UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, GeoX (Hungary), 3E (Belgium), Anemos (Germany) and Eurohelp (Spain).
The research group
The Signal Processing and Radiocommunications Group (TSR) belongs to the Department of Communications Engineering of the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Engineering in Bilbao. The research group is led by Dr Juan Luis Ordiales-Basterretxea and comprises 11 lecturers, 3 post-PhD researchers and various PhD students and engineers on contracts. The main subject of the group's research is digital radio broadcasting. Within this subject there are various lines of research and one of them is based on characterising the possible interference on telecommunications systems (TV, data radio links, radars and air navigation aids)which can be caused by wind farms.
By means of field measurements, the research group characterised the signal emitted by wind turbines over the UHF waveband and evaluated its influence on the quality of the television signal. The results were presented at the International Telecommunication Union, the regulating body of international telecommunications, and were included in the process to draw up a new recommendation. Should this process meet with success, the results of the research carried out at the UPV/EHU could form part of the international regulation in this matter.
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