Helping developers map out renewable
Mar 3, 2008 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
- Angel Gonzalez - Seattle Times
Remember the thrill of checking out your house
from outer space with Google Earth? Now a Seattle
company wants you to know whether there's enough
wind to power it with renewable energy.
3Tier, a weather-consulting service geared toward
renewable-energy developers, is expected to release
a global wind map, available free on the Web.
The company also aims to create a similar tool
to portray the potential of solar energy, to be
released within the next 18 months.
The wind map doubles as evangelism for Aeolic energy
and as a promotional tool for 3Tier. It will provide
average yearly wind data over a 15 square kilometer
area; if users are interested, they can request
a more detailed report from the company.
Until now the data for the U.S. has been available
on the company's Web site, but 3Tier founder Kenneth
Westrick wanted it to be available to decision-makers
across the developing world.
The 30 percent of the globe's population that lives
without electricity faces an "information barrier,"
If politicians and entrepreneurs know their regions
have potential for wind farms or solar arrays, they
could start planning them, he said.
For a wind project to be profitable, wind speeds
must reach an annual average of 6 meters per second.
But it also needs to be near transmission lines
that reach population centers.
According to 3Tier's map, the Washington Coast
and the Olympic Peninsula are quite breezy but they're
too remote, says 3Tier President Pascal Stork.
"You can't just build a wind farm where it's windy.
You need to get the energy out," he said.
Eastern Washington, on the other hand, has ample
transmission capacity, built to serve hydroelectric
power generated from dams. That, combined with sufficient
wind speed, makes it prime wind farm country, Stork
In the global map, Africa stands out as a region
with a lot of wind potential, Stork said. But lack
of transmission capacity remains a roadblock there.
Westrick, a former University of Washington researcher,
started 3Tier in 2001, anticipating that renewable
energy would become a booming business.
The company models and monitors weather patterns
that affect solar, wind and hydroelectric projects;
nowadays power purchasers, traders, utilities and
alternative energy developers buy 3Tier's products.
Its payroll has doubled in the past year to more
than 50 employees, many of them atmospheric scientists,
Almost all of its products are delivered through
the Web. In 2007 revenues reached $4 million, 70
percent more than the previous year.
3Tier, a closely held company, last year raised
$2 million from Good Energies, an investment fund
specialized in renewable energy.
Closely following the weather allows operators
to predict when a source of energy might peak, or
"Forecasts help maintain grid stability," Stork
said. angel Gonzalez: 206-515-5644 or firstname.lastname@example.org