Why Wind Turbines Should Talk to Each Other

Posted on February 21st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



A wind turbine spinning its blades in a valley in southeast India asks a turbine on a plain in Iowa if it should slow down or speed up its rotation. Sound like the stuff of science fiction?

It’s not, according to GE’s VP of Software Research Colin Parris. GE has been developing software, sensors and networking technology that enable wind turbines to talk to each other, not only within the confines of a particular wind farm, but even across the planet.

Such technology, and others like it, could help boost wind farm capacity, lower costs of operating wind farms, and potentially help wind energy compete more effectively with fossil fuel power. “A machine consulting with another machine...now that could be transformational,” said Parris, in a recent interview.

Much of the success of wind energy around the globe has resulted from larger and lower-cost turbines that can produce more power, combined with increasingly savvy and maturing wind developers and financiers, as well helpful subsidies from governments. However, computing tech can also contribute, adding smart intelligence to machines, helping them operate more efficiently, and alerting developers about needed maintenance.

According to some research, these types of technologies could add a 4 percent to 8 percent increase in annual energy production of a wind farm. That could be a lot on a large wind farm with hundreds of megawatts of capacity.

GE, one of the world’s largest wind turbine makers, has built a number of computing and data-dependent technologies that are working on what some call “wind orthodontics.”

Here are five ways computing technology is boosting wind energy.

Wind energy forecasting: Predicting when and how much the wind will blow is a major issue for power companies and grid operators. Because solar and wind energy are variable, that makes it harder to predict just when these resources will generate energy, compared to natural gas, coal and nuclear plants. If a cloud drifts over a solar field, or the wind suddenly picks up, the energy produced can drop or soar significantly.

In India, the government relies on accurate GE wind forecasts to help determine how much extra power needs to be spun up from coal and natural gas plants to make up for any wind shortfalls, said Parris. If GE forecasts more wind power than actually is generated, the Indian grid might face a blackout. If GE forecasts less wind power than actually occurs, grid operators could be wasting energy and money.

GE isn’t the only company that has invested in energy prediction engines. IBM has its own wind and solar forecasting systems. GE is also looking at doing solar forecasting as well, but currently isn’t offering the tech commercially.

Wind farm optimization: If you have a wind farm of, say, 50 or 100 turbines, the turbines in the front of the pack might access more wind flows, while blocking some of the wind turbines in the back. To overcome this issue, GE connects wind turbines with wireless networks and control devices and uses data and software to adjust the angle and speed of blades and rotors so that the most wind energy can be produced by the turbines collectively.

Called “wake management,” the computing tech can deliver 0.5 percent to 2 percent more annual energy production from wind turbines. While that might sound like a drop in the bucket, at a big farm, it adds up.

According to consultants SgurrEnergy, some wind companies are also using lidar technology to ensure that the plane of a wind turbine’s rotor remains perpendicular to the wind, enabling it to access as much energy as possible.

Wind farm maintenance: When a wind turbine breaks down, it’s a big deal. Turbines are commonly hundreds of feet tall, and when they become inoperable, that sometimes means that a worker has to go to the top and check out what’s wrong. And when the blades of a turbine aren’t turning, electricity isn’t being produced, which means money isn’t being made.

GE has built algorithms based on historical wind turbine activity and real-time wind energy data that can predict when wind turbines need to be maintained and alerts developers to when they could break down. The industry calls it "predictive maintenance."

The American Wind Energy Association says that in 2011, close to $40 billion worth of wind turbines in the U.S. went out of warranty, meaning the owners of the wind turbines will need to invest in their maintenance directly. Algorithms could help reduce upkeep costs.  

Drone inspections: Drones could play a new role in helping wind developers maintain turbines, and GE has already been experimenting with such technology.

Drones, carrying cameras, can fly up to the rotor and blades and inspect turbines to see if anything is out of place. Those cameras could use computing vision software to detect failures, rust, or corrosion.

Talking wind turbines: There are a lot of reasons why wind turbines might want to talk to each other across a farm, across a state or across the planet.

An older wind farm that’s been generating electricity for years could give advice to a newer, younger farm that’s operating under similar conditions. Or a wind turbine at the front of a pack could let its fellow turbines at the back of the pack know it’s adjusting its blade and rotor angle or speed.

“We have wind turbines talking to each other, and they can ask each other questions about failures, wind direction and security, or about collaborating more effectively,” explained GE’s Parris.

Such communication technology would require the turbines to be networked with wireless connections, and use sensors and software to let other turbines know how they’re operating and how they should operate


Wind energy capacity in Europe now exceeds total coal output

Posted on February 17th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



While homeowners are more familiar with photovoltaic solar panels, large-scale wind power is an increasingly important part of the growth in renewable energy.

For the first time, the total installed capacity of wind energy in Europe now exceeds the total output of electric powerplants fueled with coal.

And that imbalance is likely to grow as more wind generation comes online over the next decade, both on land and offshore.

The statistics, collated by WindEurope, are laid out in a blog post this week  by Navigant Research.

Total new wind-generating capacity installed in 28 EU member countries last year added up to 12.5 gigawatts, with a bit more than 10 percent of that located offshore.

The 2016 number was down slightly on the previous year's total, but that reflected a fast push to complete wind projects in 2015 before Germany reduced its incentives as of January 1 last year.

Total installed wind capacity in Europe is now up to 154 gigawatts, though of course capacity is generally larger than actual utilitzation for renewable sources.

Still, wind provided more than 10 percent of Europe's electricity last year, and renewables—both wind and solar—grew enough to allow older fossil-fuel plants to be decommissioned altogether.

Europe's total coal generating capability now stands at 152 gigawatts, and will almost surely fall further in coming years as countries work to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions of the generating sector.

Fully 86 percent of the 24.5 gigawatts of new generating capacity installed in Europe last year was renewable.

Total investment in wind generation last year was $30 billion, and Germany led the field with 44 percent of the total new wind capacity installed.

For the decade and a half since 2000, the 342.3 gigawatts of new capacity in wind (41.7 percent) and solar power (29.5 percent), along with natural gas (28.8 percent) allowed retirement of a like amount of generation from fuel oil, coal, and nuclear.

Analysts, including those at Navigant, expect offshore wind to represent the bulk of new capacity going forward.

The U.K., for one, has eliminated financial incentives for wind installations on land, but retained them for offshore wind farms—whose costs have already fallen below levels not expected until 2020.

While it can be hard to generalize about grid mix in Europe as a whole, Germany, the U.K., and much of Eastern Europe carry a legacy of largely coal-fired generation due to their natural deposits of the fossil fuel.

Germany has led the switch to renewable energy over the last decade, although France points to its nuclear power—which provides more than half the nation's electricity—as another low-carbon technology.


Wind energy to be created using lamp-posts

Posted on February 6th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



An IT company has joined forces with a green technology firm to develop wind turbines which attach to lamp-posts.

The NVT Group's partnership with Own Energy Solutions is set to create 25 jobs over the next 12 months which it hopes will rise to about 300 within three years.

The scheme harvests wind using a small wind turbine and inverter system.

As a result, metered, clean energy could be fed directly into the National Grid.

The company said that as a result, each suitable lamp-post conversion would save half a ton of carbon being released into the atmosphere.

As part of the deal, which is worth about £3.5m over the next 15 years, Own Energy is relocating from Glasgow to NVT's headquarters in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire.

Stephen Park Brown, managing director of NVT Group, said: "We have a great record of working with winning teams and this new venture has every prospect of eclipsing our recent commissions. We believe that Own Energy can become a significant player in the renewables market both in the UK and beyond."

'Huge export potential'

David Gordon, chief executive of Own Energy, said: "We chose to partner with NVT Group based on its extraordinary performance in recent years, particularly in the delivery of the technology for world-class sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - which of course was widely regarded as the most successful in history - and The Ryder Cup.

"Our business is likely to scale up quickly and we know that NVT Group will be able to accommodate such growth based on its past experience. There are around 10 million lamp-posts in the UK and upwards of 20% of these are suitable for conversion which makes this a very scalable business opportunity with huge export potential.

"We have already had positive preliminary discussions with UK public and private bodies and have had indications of interest from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Ireland and South Africa. We believe this business has the potential to achieve an annual UK turnover of over £400m within five years."

Local MSP Richard Lyle said: "This is marvellous news and I know from colleagues across the political divide that this project is really firing the imagination.

"It chimes with the policies of the major political parties in Scotland and can deliver both clean green energy as well as meaningful financial benefits for hosts such as local government and private owners alike. Bringing jobs to Bellshill is also to be welcomed."

North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim Logue said: "I very much welcome this news. New jobs, technology and innovation are a healthy mix of ingredients which will, we hope, pay dividends for North Lanarkshire and beyond."


This is what it's like to climb and service wind turbines for a living

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



One of America's fastest growing professions, wind turbine technician, attracts people with a unique set of skills, as demonstrated by climber and composer Jessica Kilroy.

According to the US Department of Labor, one of the fastest growing professions in the country is one that didn't even exist not that long ago, but employing people who can service and repair wind turbines is an essential part of our clean energy revolution. The Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) states that "Employment of wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, is projected to grow 108 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations."

Granted, the total number of wind technician jobs isn't very high (4,400 in 2014), so the resulting job figures from that growth isn't nearly as huge as that 108% rate might suggest, but the profession is still one key component of a low-cost and low impact energy source.

What is it like to climb hundreds of feet into the air for your job, and do the work while dangling in a harness from a rope on one of those monster wind turbines? The following video from Great Big Story, as part of its Planet Earth series, shares the story of Jessica Kilroy, a climber, composer, conservationist, and wind technician:

"These days, giant wind turbines are supplying more and more of our clean energy. And when they break down, they need to be fixed fast. It's a job only a few people are equipped to handle. Those who are afraid of heights need not apply. Rock climber Jessica Kilroy, for one, loves the challenge of blade repair. And though she makes dangling at dizzying heights look easy, her path to becoming a wind turbine technician has been anything but that." - Great Big Story

Although wind turbine technicians, with their daily high-flying adventures, might have one of the most exciting jobs in clean energy, the booming wind energy sector has created quite a few employment opportunities, with more than 100,000 wind energy jobs currently in the US. That's more than the number of jobs in nuclear, coal, natural gas or hydroelectric power plants, and the wind industry is expected to employ an estimated 380,000 people in the US by 2030.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry is "bringing billions in private investment, and tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, to rural and Rust Belt communities across the United States," which enhances those communities through boosting their economies and providing funds for schools, roads, and other necessities. And it's not just the treehuggers and renewable energy wonks who support wind energy, as even the US Department of Defense sees wind energy as an important element of increasing our energy security and cutting operational costs at its own installations. Wind and solar are seen by analysts as being currently the cheapest available electricity sources, even without subsidies, and could very well prove to be the backbone of the clean electricity grid of the future.


Wind energy continues strong growth in Canada in 2017

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Canada's wind energy industry had another year of strong growth in 2016, adding 702 MW of new capacity through the commissioning of 21 projects in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Sixteen of these projects are owned, at least in part, by aboriginal or local communities, or municipal governments. Canada now has 11,898 MW of installed wind generation capacity, enough to supply six percent of Canada's electricity demand and meet the annual electricity needs of more than three million homes.

Wind energy and natural gas are the two most cost-competitive sources of new electricity generation in Canada today and wind energy has been the largest source of new electricity generation in Canada since 2005. Between 2012 and 2016, Canada's installed wind energy capacity has grown by an average of 18 per cent, or 1,327 MW, annually.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) expects Canada to install approximately 700 MW of new wind energy capacity in 2017. New wind energy procurement in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 2017, coupled with a renewed focus in Canada on actions to transition to a low carbon economy, mean that wind energy's growth prospects will remain strong in Canada for many years to come.


"More wind energy has been built in Canada in the last 11 years than any other form of electricity generation, and for good reason. Costs for wind energy have fallen dramatically over the past seven years, making wind energy one of Canada's two most cost-competitive sources of new electricity supply. And unlike natural gas, wind energy is not impacted by carbon prices or commodity price fluctuations, meaning that wind energy will only become more affordable over time. The fact that the vast majority of new wind energy projects built in Canada in 2016 had some form of local ownership demonstrates the value of wind not only as a driver of economic growth, but also as a source of local jobs and revenue in communities right across the country."

-Robert Hornung, President, CanWEA


  • Ontario continued to lead Canada in market size and growth, adding 413 MW of new wind energy capacity in 2016 to bring its total installed capacity to 4,781 MW.
  • Quebec added three projects totalling 249 MW of capacity in 2016, ending the year with 3,510 MW of wind energy on its grid and maintaining its position as the second largest wind energy market in Canada.
  • Nova Scotia installed more wind energy projects than any other province in 2016, with 10 new facilities totalling 39.5 MW coming on line, most driven by the province's unique community feed-in tariff program. Nova Scotia ended the year with 579 MW of wind energy capacity, placing it fourth among the provinces for total installed capacity.
  • Canada's new wind energy projects in 2016 represented about $1.5 billion in investment.
  • There are now 285 wind farms made up of 6,288 wind turbines operating in Canada, bringing economic development and diversification to well over 100 rural communities through land lease income, property tax payments, ownership revenue and community benefits agreements.
  • Canada's first commercial wind facility, the Cowley Ridge Wind Farm, was decommissioned in 2016, 23 years after it began operations in southern Alberta in 1993. Alberta added no new wind capacity last year, but remains Canada's third largest wind market with 1,479 MW.


  • Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis 10.0, published in November 2016 by the financial advisory firm Lazard, shows how the cost of wind energy has fallen 66 per cent over the past seven years in the United States.
  • National Energy Board statistics (appendices: electricity capacity) show more wind energy was built in Canada than any other source of electricity generation from 2005 to 2015
  • CanWEA's Wind Markets webpages contain detailed information on the role of wind energy in markets across Canada.


Giant wind turbine sets record for wind energy generated in 24 hours

Posted on February 1st, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



 Wind turbine designers have been working on bringing a 10 MW turbine to market for years. They're close. We've seen prototypes and know that it won't be very long before these next generation turbines are producing clean energy around the world.

Proof of that comes from a new world record for wind power generated by a single wind turbine in a 24-hour period. The new V164 9 MW turbine from Danish company MHI Vestas Offshore Wind produced an amazing 216,000 kWh on December 1, 2016. The turbine was installed at a testing site near Østerild, Denmark.

The 9 MW V164 turbine is a tweaked and upgraded version of the 8 MW V164 that was developed in 2012. The V164 has been the most powerful wind turbine to date, holding the previous wind energy generation record before its upgrade. It stands 722 feet high and has blades that are 263 feet long. This giant has a sweep area larger than the London Eye.

Why this constant push towards larger wind turbines? The larger the turbine, the larger the power output, which makes offshore wind farms exponentially more efficient and brings down the cost of installation, maintenance and electricity, too.

The V164 has a 25-year life span and 80 percent of the turbine can be recycled when its job is done. It can produce electricity at minimum wind speeds of 9 mph with the optimal wind speed being between 27 and 56 mph, conditions that are typical in the rough North Sea where the turbine is destined to reside.

The turbine has been selected for the 370 MW Norther offshore wind park off the coast of Zeebrugge, Belgium. The project will generate enough electricity to cover the energy needs of 400,000 Belgian households when it's completed in 2019.


Masdar Acquires 25% Stake In Hywind Floating Offshore Wind Farm From Statoil

Posted on January 19th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



 Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has agreed to divest 25% of its stake in the Hywind Scotland floating offshore wind pilot to Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar.

The announcement was made at an official ceremony during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2017, with Statoil agreeing to divest 25% of its stake in the 30-megawatt pilot project to Masdar. The Hywind Scotland pilot project will nevertheless be the world’s largest floating wind farm when it is completed late this year. The Scottish Government approved plans by Statoil to develop the project back in late 2015.

The project is expected to be able to produce power for approximately 20,000 households.

“The Hywind Scotland pilot park has the potential to open attractive new markets for renewable energy production worldwide,” said Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions. “With Masdar onboard as a strong strategic partner we are teaming up with a company with high ambitions within renewable energy. We believe Masdar can be a strong partner also in future Hywind projects and we hope that our collaboration will result in future value creation opportunities for both parties.”

“Masdar is excited to join the team developing the world’s first floating wind farm, and to build on our partnership with Statoil,” said Chief Executive Officer at Masdar, Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi. “Hywind Scotland represents the next stage in the evolution of the offshore wind industry, combining the project management experience and technical expertise of one of the world’s largest offshore energy players – and our own capabilities in renewable energy development acquired over the last decade in the UK and international markets.

“We see tremendous potential in the commercial application of floating offshore wind technologies.”

The Hywind pilot is expected to cover approximately 4 square kilometers, about 25 kilometers off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland, in water depths of 95 to 120 meters. Floating offshore wind has the potential to generate affordable offshore wind energy while meeting specific requirements — generating in attractive offshore wind conditions in water depths beyond the reach of traditional offshore wind projects, and ensuring that offshore wind sites aren’t seen from shore.

“We expect floating offshore wind farms to benefit from the general cost development within the offshore wind segment,” Rummelhoff continued. “The objective of the Hywind Scotland pilot park is to demonstrate cost efficient and low risk solutions for future commercial scale floating wind farms. This will further increase the global market potential for offshore wind energy, contributing to realising Statoil’s ambition of profitable growth in renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.”


Dutch Railways' Electric Trains Now Run On 100% Wind Energy

Posted on January 12th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



A single Dutch Railways line in the Netherlands still runs on diesel fuel—but only until the end of this year. Every other train owned by the national rail company is already electric and now gets that electricity from Dutch wind farms.

"We want to give our commuters and train passengers a real sustainable alternative to flying or driving a car," says Ton Boon, spokesperson for Dutch Railways or NS, which runs a network of 5,500 Dutch trains. "Especially daily commuters."

 The company, working in partnership with all other Dutch rail companies—including freight trains—had planned to source all of its electricity from wind by 2018, but after learning that extra wind power was available on the Dutch market, was able to purchase it earlier. The trains use a huge amount of power, roughly as much as the entire city of Amsterdam. But the growth in wind energy makes it possible to supply the whole amount.

Rather than buying power from existing renewable energy plants, the rail company chose to support newly-built projects. The power is sent into the grid, and the company buys certificates for each megawatt-hour of energy that it uses. Wind power doesn't go directly to the trains, both because that's not how the infrastructure is set up and because the trains need to pull from the grid for a constant source of power.

"If there is no wind you can run the trains," says Boon. "There needs to be enough power on the grid always."

Each day, 1.2 million people ride the trains—compared to less than 90,000 a day on Amtrak in the U.S. In 2011, the most recent year that data are available, Amtrak directly emitted nearly 800,000 metric tons of carbon pollution; NS's operational footprint is close to nothing, while running more than 15 times as many trains.

"We want to set an example for the market that it's possible to make an agreement with an energy supplier on making your energy usage really sustainable," says Boon.


Rhode Island offshore wind farm, first in the U.S., to power thousands of homes

Posted on January 4th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



Fifteen miles off the coast of Rhode Island stand 600-foot turbines, anchored in 90 feet of Atlantic waters. They are expected to generate enough energy to power 17,000 homes.

“We see this being a big industry, we see offshore wind producing a lot of energy for the United States, particularly here in the Northeast where the winds are really strong,” said Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, which built the wind farm.

The turbines will most benefit Block Island. Because of its location, 45 minutes by boat from the mainland, it currently gets its oil and gas shipped in.

Residents pay a premium; At peak times, nearly 60 cents per kilowatt. The wind farm is expected to cut that cost to about 24 cents.

That is great news for 68-year old Steve Draper. His family runs the 1661 Inn, one of the oldest businesses on the island.

“Our bill last year was somewhere around $200,000,” he said. “You try everything to cut your costs. It’s a major factor in doing business here.”

While countries like Denmark have been using off-shore wind farms since the early 1990s, U.S.-based projects have been stalled due to court fights over environmental fears and protests over the turbines blocking beachfront views.

“It took us eight years to build this project but we are finally here,” Grybowski said.

Other projects are in the works, potentially bringing 200 more wind turbines to the area within the next 10 years. Draper expects people will get used to the new scenery.

“We all got used to telephone poles and telephone wires in our views and they’re not beautiful,” he said.

A view of the future, powering the future.


UK Wind Energy Sets New Generation Record, Exceeds 10,000 Megawatts

Posted on December 12th, 2016 in wind by Spencer R.



The UK’s wind energy industry has surpassed another milestone, generating more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) for the first time from its fleet of onshore and offshore wind turbines.

The news comes from the UK’s wind energy trade body, RenewableUK, which reported that the record of 10,104 MW was achieved between 2pm and 2:30pm on Wednesday, providing 23% of Britain’s total electricity demand at the time.

“It’s terrific to see wind power smashing another record,” said RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck. “It shows that wind is playing an increasingly central role as a reliable part of our new modern energy system. As we install more wind power, more records will tumble. This is a Christmas clean energy bonus — not just for the renewable energy sector, but for all of us.”

The UK is arguably the world’s leading wind energy nation, given its past commitments to both onshore and offshore wind. According to RenewableUK’s figures, the UK has an onshore wind capacity of just over 9,000 MW, and offshore capacity of nearly 6,000 MW. Not surprisingly, there are also numerous offshore wind projects in development throughout UK waters.

Despite the fact that the UK earlier this year announced it would cease allowing onshore wind farms access to the country’s primary renewable energy subsidy scheme, wind energy is a dominant player across the country, and is likely to continue to be so for years to come.