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Current Events in Business Research

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Current Events in Business Research
Business Research RES/351
July 23, 2012

Business research is an organized and systematic inquiry used to obtain data and yield information to support and guide managerial decisions. Organizations use the process to plan, acquire, analyze, and disseminate insights to guide their business decisions with the ultimate goal of maximizing business performance (Cooper & Schindler, 2006). Organizations, no matter how large or how small will use business research at some level. I will discuss research used in the wind energy business in relation to developing and building wind farms.
Business Research in Wind Energy
A good research initiative is valuable to the success of any organization. In the wind energy business several major components must be considered in the building of a wind farm. Strong wind is an endless natural resource to be transformed into capital for both an individual landowner as well as for the wind company. However, before development of a wind farm can be undertaken, the company must first find a windy site and determine if the site has nearby transmissions lines. Once wind and transmission is determined, the value to landowners and the value to governments and local communities must be ascertained and brought to those groups. A wind project will not be successful without the buy-in from the local government, the community, and the landowners.
Chasing the Wind
The first step to building a wind farm is to find locations to catch the wind. Wind resource analysis and research will help identify the best places. Meteorological investigations and studies are performed looking for sites in which the average wind speed is appropriate for the wind turbines to be used. Wind speeds on average of 17+ miles per hour are ideal. Wind is typically monitored for six months to two years to corroborate the company’s research data with publicly available wind data. Sites are overlaid with environmental maps to ensure development occurs only in areas with minimal environmental impact. All characteristics of the wind must be measured such as speed and direction during all times of the day, every day of the year.
Transmission Lines
Simply finding good wind is not enough. Transmission of electricity is also a key consideration. To be cost-effective, robust transmission lines should be located within a reasonable distance from a prospective wind farm. When wind is being assessed, research is also conducted to ensure the electricity generated can be conveyed to a main power grid. The best wind in the world is of no value if the electricity it generates has nowhere to go.
Permitting and the Environment
While testing the wind’s power, research will determine what permits are required at the federal, state, and local county levels. Environmental analysis is required to ensure the safety of local wildlife and the environment such as avian, bat, endangered species, and wetlands studies.
Defining the Boundaries
Once the right match of wind and transmission are found, the boundaries of a prospective wind farm will be defined. The owners of the land within those boundaries are potential business partners with the wind company. Business research is again used to gauge interest by the landowners, government, and the local community in potential wind farm development. A first step is often a town hall meeting to discuss a partnership, the benefits of wind energy, and to explain the ins and outs of wind farm royalty payments and natural resource management. In addition, feedback is obtained on items to be addressed at both the individual and community level.
Value to the Community
Wind power can play a significant role in the revitalization of rural economies. Wind projects contribute to the local tax base for schools and infrastructure. Landowners receive rent or royalty payments for use of their land. Wind farms also create short-term jobs during construction and long-term employment opportunities for on-going operation of the farm. Business research into the potential increase of tax dollars, the number of jobs available, and the potential landowner income to be gained are all important aspects of selling a community on the benefits of a wind farm project.
Partner with the Landowners
The company works closely with landowners interested in long-term business relationships. Wind farm development can take five to seven or more years. Once again business research is applied to determine if options or leases are the most appropriate contracts to negotiate. If competition is in the area and competing for the wind, options can quickly be executed to secure the land and provide much needed time to conclude activities such as wind resource assessments and obtain permits. Entering directly into leases is a more comprehensive process and takes additional time. However, all negotiations are completed at once with leases; with options, there is a second negotiation required to later convert the option to lease. This second negotiation could have adverse business impacts on the organization.
Project Design
Design of the wind farm and placement of the turbines requires additional research. Landowner safety is a primary concern and turbines should not be placed within 1000-1500 feet of a residence. Terrain is also important. The roughness of the terrain, its contours, and even the presence of buildings and trees affect wind speed and may create turbulence that could decrease energy production. Information obtained from researching the local geography will affect business decisions with respect to turbine placement.
Selling the Electricity
Selling generated electricity is the Holy Grail of the wind energy business. Initially the owner of the transmission grid will perform tests and studies to ensure the grid can take the electricity without negatively impacting system integrity. Due to the huge upfront costs of building a wind farm, projects are only viable if a customer such as a large utility company has committed to a long-term energy purchases. These contracts can have a term of 20 to 30 years or more. The wind company will research and analyze the electricity market and work toward executing these long-term power purchase agreements. In addition, research will help determine how best to sell the electricity on the open market.
Conclusion
In conclusion, business research takes place all day every day to obtain data and yield information necessary for making decisions that affect an organization’s performance. This paper has demonstrated how business research applies to the wind energy business. Research affects all aspects of building a wind farm from finding the wind and transmission to ultimately partnering with the landowners and local community and government. Without research to make responsible decisions, no wind project would be successful.
References
Cooper, D. R., & Schindler, P. S. (2006). Business research methods, 9e. [University of Phoenix Custom Edition e-Text]. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, RES320 - Foundations of Research website.

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