Scientific project

KATABATA project: the three stations installed

The three stations of the KATABATA project, led by Damien Ernst (Montefiore/School of Engineering) and Xavier Fettweis (SPHERES/Faculty of Sciences), have finally been installed. The first data are jostling on the servers, showing powerful wind curves, but the trouble is not yet completely behind the scientific team of the University of Liège. Latest developments ...


espite difficult weather conditions and the arrival of winter in Greenland, the last two stations of the KATABATA project - which aims to measure the wind  capacity of katabatic winds in southern Greenland - have been successfully installed at the two locations planned by the ULiège research team. Successfully? At least that is what the team was thinking at the time they finalized the installation of the third station (in an old glacier valley a few kilometers from the ice sheet) already thinking of celebrating this victory on the way back to France. Only a few hours after the installation of the third station ,Xavier Fettweis realised that a connection had not been correctly made to all three stations. This connection is of the utmost importance since it allows the stations to be supplied with energy by solar panels which are supposed to provide the electrical energy necessary for the stations to function properly. “Without this connection, our project was in serious danger of ending much earlier than planned," smiles Damien Ernst, engineer at ULiège. The stations would have lasted only a few days and then, we would have had to wait a year before we could go and solve the problem. But we didn't want this project to come to an end so fast, I contacted Michaël Fonder, our ULiège engineer who is still on site, and we finally found a solution. The last chance because, with winter approaching, we didn't have to waste another minute to intervene”. So it was on board a fishing boat that Michaël was able to reach the three installation points to rectify the connections . “Despite of a blank installation, the crew could not have foreseen this problem ,"continues Damien Ernst .Michaël, by reading the plan carefully, detected a mistake in the installation manual, confirmed by the Finnish manufacturer of the stations. They really have nothing to blame themselves for!".

On Sunday, Michaël Fonder was finally able to announce the good news to the team :" I was able to correct the connections and all the stations are now fully operational! Fortunately the weather was good this weekend, because I think it was the last window where we could intervene before a certain time. »

Strong winds, as expected

From their installations, the stations have already been able to transmit a lot of data  to the ULiège server dedicated to the project. And the first recorded data tend to confirm the researchers' prediction. “We have received very encouraging data," says Xavier Fettweis, climatologist at ULiège. The first curves show a strong wind activity with winds already reaching 100 km/h, which corroborates our estimates. » 

Fig 1 KATABATA premieres courbes 

Figure: Wind speed at 10m (in km/h)  from 7 to 16 September 2020,  measured every 20 minutes at the 3  AWS   weather  stations ( dashed  line ) and simulated for these 3 stations by the MAR climate model (solid line) developed at the ULiège Climatology Laboratory.

There is still one question about the project, a fact on which researchers are still unsure... the masts of the stations must be able to withstand the intensity of the winds - which can reach 200 km/h - that can be felt as they roll down the southern coasts of Greenland. In the meantime, the researchers remain confident and hope to be able to quickly issue some initial trends, thanks in particular to the MAR model, a climate modelling model used in numerous international scientific collaborations and developed by the ULiège Climatology Laboratory, to confirm the fact that these winds could be an incredible source of renewable energy . 


KATABATA project: installation of the 3 stations

The first data transmitted by the stations tend to confirm the intuition of the ULiège researchers ... impressive winds !

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