LIDAR helps Greece become a renewable energy leader

Contributed by Alexander James

Capable of recording key wind characteristics such as speed and direction up to and above 200 meters vertical height, her special skills meant #106 was always destined to be a traveler and it wasn’t long before she spread her wings. Within a few weeks, she had traded her first home for a far sunnier climate and was on her way to Athens and her new name.

Now known as Eunice, one of the mythical Nereides sea nymphs of Greek legend, her first stop was the headquarters of renewable energy developer Eunice Energy Group – her new owner. Nearly 15 years later, Eunice is a wind measurement veteran and is still providing a top-class service for the optimization of both new projects and existing wind parks.

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Choosing life with LIDAR

Eunice Energy Group is the first and only energy company in Greece to generate power exclusively from renewables and it is one of the region’s leading renewable energy companies. With a significant position on the international energy map and many years of experience in the development of innovative and integrated solutions for the production and utilization of renewables, the Group supports a wide range of activities. Along with large-scale PV, storage and wind projects, Eunice Energy Group manufactures EV chargers and has its own in-house manufactured wind turbine – the EW16 Thetis. Its pioneering role puts innovation at the heart of the business and the company plays a leading role in the emerging fields of smart energy management and e-mobility.

Facing increased demand for wind measurement campaigns as a key part of its project development pipeline, Eunice Energy Group had considered a number of options to expand its capabilities.

With its many hills and cliffs, the challenging Greek topography makes it difficult to install a typical met mast for the execution of a wind measurement campaign. Even sophisticated wind planning software can’t accurately interpolate met mast data to deliver low-uncertainty figures in such complex terrain. In some wind farm locations, for example, the hub height of one machine is at the same elevation as the foundation of the next turbine which could stand on an adjacent hill. The unique capabilities of Lidars are particularly well-suited to the Greek landscape though and the data she delivers helps to determine the exact location of machines for optimum power generation across the most difficult wind farm site.

As part of its development strategy, Eunice Energy Group considered it crucial to be able to take measurements at any desired location. Lidars like Eunice can be moved around a site easily and quickly, conferring inherent flexibility and allowing wind measurements to be recorded at the precise location needed. Lidar technology does not require any major groundworks, either, such as the concrete pad needed for conventional met masts.

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The capabilities of Lidar mean Eunice is also able to define wind characteristics well above the height of a conventional met mast and across the full span of both current and future wind turbines. With turbine hub heights steadily increasing, traditional met masts must be far taller to eliminate uncertainty in wind shear. Given trends in turbine design, this major benefit of Lidar will become even more significant over time, especially as met mast expenditure dramatically increases above a typical 30-60 meter height and also requires a larger pad footprint. Taller met masts typically mean a switch to more expensive lattice-type structures too, rather than the standard and lower-cost tubular-type masts.

The time and human resource savings during field deployments are key advantages of Lidars like Eunice. Requiring just two staff to deploy rather than perhaps the six or more needed to install a conventional met mast, Eunice represents an obvious cost benefit but also a health and safety advantage given that Lidars don’t require any work to be undertaken at height. Consequently, while the initial purchase cost may be higher, Lidar wind measurement campaign costs are considerably lower than traditional met masts and they are safer too. An additional benefit considered by Eunice Energy Group was the ease of powering Eunice in the remote off-grid locations typical of Greece. With her robust self-contained PV and battery power supply ideal for the Mediterranean climate, Eunice always has enough energy to execute every task assigned to her.

With better and safer measurements, faster implementation in the field, and cheaper installations with greater value, fundamentally Eunice also provides bankable and industry-accepted, IEC-compatible measurements through the company’s own EuniLab accreditation. EuniLab is a subsidiary company of Eunice Energy Group that is responsible for wind farm installations and wind measurement campaigns based on IEC standards.

Having considered a number of alternatives, such as deploying more met masts or emerging technologies at the time such as Sodar, the clear operational benefits meant Eunice – Lidar – was an obvious solution to meet Eunice Energy Group’s wind measurement needs. Together with the depth and duration of the technical support offered by ZX Lidars though, the case for Lidar was compelling.

A new life in the sun

With her many attributes clearly established, her first deployment took place in June 2006 when Eunice made her new home in the center of Athens just a hundred meters from the residence of the prime minister of Greece. With an initial installation on the rooftop of the Eunice Energy Group HQ, Eunice could also call the President of the Republic and the Greek Parliament her near neighbors.

Nonetheless, adapting to a new home isn’t easy and it hasn’t always been glitz and glamour for Eunice. On her first deployment in the field, wind energy was less popular and acceptable than it is now. It was feared that she wouldn’t fit in and there was a concern that local people could have damaged this relatively expensive piece of equipment. Certainly, Eunice looks a little bit different. Resembling a lunar lander or space probe, at first glance her figure is perhaps more suited to the Martian landscape than the ancient hills and valleys of Greece. As a result, Eunice Energy Group looked to recruit local shepherds to guard this alien-like figure and ward off any potential attacks during her lonely vigil. Eunice needn’t have worried about angry locals, although she didn’t escape unscathed. It seems some wild goats grazing nearby got a taste for the cable connecting the Lidar to her power supply. Their gnawing damaged the link and her guardians soon learned to cover the cables for the ancillaries with protective plastic tubes as a key adaptation to her new home.

In her many deployments since, Eunice has grown to be a firm favorite among the Eunice Energy Group family of engineers, developers and customers. She has already played a key role in the evaluation of the bulk of Eunice Energy Group’s existing wind power capacity and in planning campaigns for many new projects across Greece for both Eunice Energy Group and others. Among her many achievements, Eunice conducts power performance measurements determining wind speeds downstream of wind turbines helping to assess if there are any technical issues with the generator. She also allows Eunice Energy Group to sell measurement services to third parties under the Eunilab brand.

Read more: 10 Myths About Wind Lidar Technology Debunked

Leading through Lidar

Always a pioneer and definitely an outdoorsy individual, today Eunice is already a teenager with more than 14 years of exemplary service. Eunice remains in robust good health and is nowhere near retirement age. It’s hard to imagine any piece of digital equipment still in front line service well into a second decade but with support from ZX Lidars, Eunice continues to hold her own. The ancient hillsides of Greece are her home, but Eunice retains strong links with her birthplace and her always supportive parents who continue to offer advice and technical guidance when needed.

She plans to continue working as much as possible and for many years to come. With the help of ZX Lidars, her friends and family and the love and care that is given to maintaining her in optimum condition, Eunice will continue to serve the winds of Greece and operate as a loyal partner to Eunice Energy Group and its partners.

As a tool Eunice is very similar to renewable energy systems themselves – initially more expensive than an average solution but ultimately delivering many tangible and long-term benefits. Eunice is better at measuring wind characteristics, offers faster and cheaper installation and delivers much greater value than the traditional met mast approach. Considered as a movable 200 meter met mast that has already delivered well over a decade of service, she clearly represents great value.

Eunice also continues to play a key role in the spirit of innovation that is the cornerstone of Eunice Energy Group and its transformation of the Greek energy market. One such innovation is a smart energy management and distribution system known as S4S (Storage for Sustainability, Smart Grid, Solutions, Security). Implemented for the first time in the archipelago of the Dodecanese, using S4S the island of Tilos became the first energy autonomous island in Europe.

Today, Eunice Energy Group’s vision is to offer the opportunity for everyone to become an independent and autonomous energy ‘NetProsumer’ and contribute to renewable energy sovereignty. NetProsumers are typically eco-conscious, strive for energy autonomy and independence, and seek out rational management of energy consumption through technological advances. The group intends to achieve this goal in part through a smart energy management system based on blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (Al) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Combining wind, PV, and storage to trade energy throughout a community requires precise information on wind power and this is information which is provided by Eunice. By helping to implement more renewable energy, Lidar was and still is the perfect tool to help create the future of Greece as envisioned by Eunice Energy Group in which every household and every business plays a part. Indeed, Eunice has been so successful that Eunice Energy Group intends to expand its Lidar contingent and adopt some of her younger sisters. Tirelessly executing complex measurement tasks across extremely challenging Greek terrain, Eunice has already played a key role in leading the county’s green transition. An innovator, pioneer, traveler, and reliable partner, Eunice – a wind Lidar – is not the destination, but she is a big part of the journey to clean energy for all.

About the author:

Alexander James is a freelance journalist specializing in energy and technology