GE is billing its latest wind turbine design, the new 2.5-120, as the company’s “first brilliant wind turbine,” and while it’s no Einstein (Einstein was much shorter, for one thing) it is pretty darned smart. Aside from an integrated energy storage feature, the 2.5-120 includes a data-driven system that could help boost its efficiency 25 percent higher than GE’s current 2.5 megawatt wind turbine, and it also improves power output by 15 percent.
The first prototype of the new turbine is being installed in the Netherlands some time this month, so it will be a little while before we see how closely expectations match performance, but in the meantime, this is a good opportunity to check out that data-driven system (aka GE’s Industrial Internet.)
GE and the Industrial Internet
GE’s concept for the Industrial Internet is based on the progress of technological history, except that instead of moving out of the Industrial Age and into the Internet Age, you add them together to get new systems and, more importantly, gain productivity.
That’s already occurring to one degree or another in the energy field (“smart grid” comes to mind), and GE aims to accelerate that trend while cementing itself in a position of global leadership.
Specifically, GE envisions the Industrial Internet as a seamlessly integrated network of “intelligent” machines, facilities, vehicle fleets, and shipping fleets, combined with advanced analytics, which in the right hands (there’s always a catch, right?) could promote a better quality of life and improved working conditions.
Or, as GE puts it:
“The deeper meshing of the digital world with the world of machines
holds the potential to bring about profound transformation to global industry, and in turn to many aspects of daily life, including the way many of us do our jobs.”
GE’s Brilliant Wind Turbine
That brings us to the 2.5-120 wind turbine (120 refers to the 120-meter rotor).
The 2.5-120 is designed to achieve greater efficiency at low-wind-speed sites, enabling more regions to take advantage of local wind power.
A taller tower (maximum hub height of 139 meters) is credited with some of the improvement, but that’s only part of it.
The real meat is in the Industrial Internet, which the turbine harnesses through an advanced control system. In a conventional wind farm, units have to be stopped and restarted to smooth out energy generation spikes. GE’s software controls the output at each turbine, which, in addition to achieving a more predictable stream of energy, also helps to reduce maintenance, repair, and replacement costs.
Here’s the description by GE’s vice president for renewable energy Vic Abate:
“Analyzing tens of thousands of data points every second, the 2.5-120 integrates energy storage and advanced forecasting algorithms while communicating seamlessly with neighboring turbines, service technicians and customers.”
Wind Power on the Rise
Concerns about the intermittent nature of wind are rapidly falling by the wayside as new energy storage solutions like the 2.5-120 come online.
Among other options (such as compressed air and pumped hydro), advanced battery-based wind energy storage has already reached utility-scale proportions as demonstrated by the Notrees Windpower wind farm in Texas and the Auwahi wind farm in Hawaii.
With the storage issue pretty much resolved, wind power has really taken off. In 2012, the U.S. wind industry installed more than 13 gigawatts of new capacity, accounting for 42 percent of total new U.S. energy capacity, more than any other resource including natural gas.
And there’s plenty more where that came from….
Image: Brilliant wind turbine courtesy of GE
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.