This past weekend we chartered a fishing boat to take us out on Lake Erie to the location where we last saw Project Mustard Seed in November to try and determine what caused the failure. We used the same side-scan sonar imagers that fishermen use to scan the bottom of the lake, as well as a USB underwater camera system we designed to take detailed pictures and video. While the camera worked successfully (despite springing a leak), sadly, there was no hardware to be seen or found.
We have gone over the most credible failure modes which could have led to the rig being lost. Our expectations and hopes were that any hardware found would give us a clear indication of the most likely failure scenario.
For example, we thought that if the core cans (the ones in the center of the rig) were found intact at the bottom of the lake, still attached to the anchor line, it would indicate the rig had broke apart because the set-screw structure failed. Since the center was not sufficiently buoyant without the parameter cans, the core would have quickly sink without the tubes connecting it to the parameter. Tube structure failure seems a likely scenario due to the 22′ waves the rig experienced!
So, without any hardware or evidence, we can only conclude that Lady Bessie has won this round. We have now brought Project Mustard Seed – the world’s first freshwater windfarm – to a close. Please check back for more information about the next big project that Operation Mustard Seed has planned.
Earlier this week, General Electric (GE) and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) announced plans to partner and develop an offshore wind farm on Lake Erie. The initial 20-megawatt farm, scheduled for completion in late 2012, will be comprised of five turbines and located nearly 6 miles off the Cleveland shoreline. This project is a test for future wind developments, with a long-term goal of generating 1000 megawatts of power from Lake Erie wind turbines by 2020.
In addition to the wind farms, GE and LEEDCo are jointly looking into opportunities for making offshore wind technology economically viable for areas around the Great Lakes.
Does this story sound familiar to you? It should! That’s because Operation Mustard Seed launched Project Mustard Seed, the world’s first freshwater wind farm on Lake Erie, seven months ago. Although our project only had two turbines that stood eight feet above the water, it was also a test rig to prove the viability of generating wind power from Lake Erie, and was the first in a series of bigger and better projects.
Congrats to Cleveland for continuing to support offshore wind power development.
Lake Erie Waves/Project Update
We are currently in the final stages of assembling an underwater camera, which we plan to send deep underwater at the Lake Erie coordinates where Project Mustard Seed was last seen. We are hoping that this view will give us some insight into what could have happened to the rig. And, let’s be honest, we’re hoping to find – and retrieve – some of the hardware. We will be posting pictures and videos from this expedition, likely sometime during the next month.
In the meantime, here are some examples from YouTube of the type of weather that Project Mustard Seed had to endure during its time on the lake. This first video is just a regular, rough day on Lake Erie. It nicely shows what the rig would have been battling against on an almost weekly basis. However, the week that we launched, Thanksgiving 2009, there was a crazy storm, with reports of more than 20-foot waves. Take a look at what waves that size can do to a cruise liner, and then imagine how our small rig of garbage cans – designed to withstand waves of up to 14 feet – must have been tossed around.
And while you’re at it, check out these videos of an amazing rescue, and waves off the coast of Iceland. It is truly amazing the incredible power of water.
Yesterday the weather was finally clear, and the waves were calm enough for us to charter a boat from Wildwood Marina to the spot where we had dropped off the Project Mustard Seed test rig a few weeks earlier. However…the rig is no longer where we left it, and there is no trace in the near area.
We are going to be working with the coast guard and contacting marinas up and down the Lake Erie coastline, in case anyone has seen a large yellow “float” with “windmills” floating by.
I will post the minute we hear anything. I will also be posting my hypotheses about what happened within the next week or so, after I have had time to make some calculations and phone calls.
“With the gales of November remembered…”
Unfortunately, we lost communication with the test rig over the Thanksgiving weekend. Plans are underway to retrieve it as soon as possible, weather permitting.
The world’s first freshwater wind farm has successfully launched! The first test rig for Project Mustard Seed is currently floating in Lake Erie, about six miles off the coast of Cleveland. This launch was the culmination of more than two years of research, hard work and quite a few all night-ers, especially during this last week.
While we had some initial concerns about the functionality of the second wind turbine, both turbines are now working and transmitting data to a home computer about 20 miles away. We are also able to get a decent live video feed from the rig (which is how we know that the second wind turbine is turning).
For more information about the history behind Project Mustard Seed and details about its first test rig – the world’s first freshwater wind farm – visit Starting Project Mustard Seed.