Science & Research
After proposing a new model for education reform based on 9-year schooling, free transport for all for a vibrant economy, the construction of a fly-over bridge at Phoenix based on cellular automata modelling (in 2009), modelling of disasters such as floods, landslides and tsunamis, Professor Soonil Rughooputh and his research team from the University of Mauritius are now proposing to tap on wind power at selected hotspots.
Wind energy is an established industry. “Wind power is widely seen as the source of renewable energy with the best chance of competing with fossil-fuel power stations in the near term.” according to the Economist Technology Quarterly, 12 June 2010, pp. 12. A team of researchers from the Department of Physics at the University of Mauritius, which comprises Professor Soonil Rughooputh, Dr Roddy Lollchund and doctorate student Zaynah Dhunny, are working on the feasibility of wind energy for Mauritius since November 2012. Their work was motivated by the favourable trade winds that influence the island throughout the year.
The researchers have analyzed some 40 years of wind observations from several monitoring stations throughout the island using rigorous statistical techniques and estimated the electrical power output from hypothetical wind farms at selected hotspots. The team has also explored the seasonal effects on power output. Their work demonstrated conclusively that a major part of the electrical needs of Mauritius could potentially be met by exploiting wind energy. This is in line with the policy of the Government to reduce and cut down the cost of electricity production by exploring the use of renewable energies which include wind, solar, hydro-electric and tidal power as well as geothermal and biomass.
The researchers went a further step by using sophisticated computational fluid dynamics and GIS tools to model wind flow patterns, at high resolutions, over the whole island of Mauritius and selected sites. They have successfully modelled and validated the first multi-level wind velocity, wind power and wind power turbine maps for Mauritius (see figure). This work has permitted the identification of a few hotspots for both onshore and offshore wind farm developments.
Onshore hotspots include regions to the south-west (south of Chamarel) and offshore hotspots include regions to the north of Grand Gaube, east of Flacq and north of Ile aux Aigrettes.
According to the researchers, these locations possess appreciable wind resources with productive wind speeds comparable to those of countries already reaping the benefits of this technology. This research could indeed prove useful to entrepreneurs/companies who would like to invest in wind energy harvesting.
As an example, using 2.3 MW wind turbine with hub height 100 m and rotor diameter of 108 m, the offshore wind farm in the north-north east of the island (having a total area of some 238 km2) will accommodate 700 such wind turbines with an installed capacity of 1.6 GW (and with an energy output of ~150 GWh annually).
Using the 273 kW wind turbine at a hub height of 60 m and rotor diameter of 30 m, an onshore wind farm in the south east part of the island accommodating some 40 such wind turbines with a starting capacity of 11 MW will have an energy output of 4 GWh annually.
Other areas where the research team has been working on include integrating wind farms in smart cities, assessing the potential wind energy of our outer islands, and exploring low-cost prototypes of wind turbines. Since March 2015, working with international collaborators from Fraunhofer IWS, Germany, CIEMAT, Spain and ENGYS, USA, the team is working on integrating small wind turbines as well on pedestrian comforts on the campus of the University of Mauritius and in selected urban areas, and on mitigating measures in case of disasters such as fire and epidemics.
Many of the projects mentioned above are at different stages of completion with some already been published in renowned peer-reviewed international impact factor journals. Doctorate student Zaynah Dhunny benefits from a scholarship from the Mauritius Research Council.
* Published in print edition on 4 December 2015