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Is a blustery day a boon for a wind farm or too much of a good thing? It depends, says Keith Longtin, general manager for wind products at GE’s renewable energy business. “The grid can’t always accept wind power as fast as it comes up,” Longtin says. “When it’s gusting, turbines turn their blades out of the wind and let some of the power pass through. That revenue is gone with the wind.”
But Longtin and his team came up with a solution. They built the world’s first “intelligent” wind turbine with an integrated battery that can store excess power and release it when wind dies down. The turbine, which is connected to the Industrial Internet, is loaded with sensors and powerful software. They gather and analyze turbine, weather, and grid data and forecast how much electricity the turbine will produce over the next hour.
“This is predictable power,” Longtin says. “We are using advanced forecasting algorithms and a small amount of battery storage to meet a forecast of how much power we will be able to deliver for the next 15 minutes to one hour.”
The software package links the turbines to the Industrial Internet, a network connecting people, data and machines. The software comes with three key applications. They allow wind farm operators like Invenergy, the first customer using the new technology, to capture lost energy, make wind power output predictable, and help keep power pulsing through the grid at the same frequency. (This is important when several power plants are adding power to the grid at the same time.) “Utilities use gas turbines and other conventional generators to do this,” says Justin Sabrsula, an associate in GE’s renewable energy leadership program. “But the new wind farm system and sophisticated algorithms can now manage the same. It’s a revenue stream that wind customers can now capture.”
Invenergy, America’s largest independent wind power generation company, will deploy the first three GE 2.5-120 turbines equipped with the technology at the Goldthwaite Wind Energy farm in central Texas. (The numbers stand for 2.5 megawatts in output and 120 meters – the size of the London Eye – in rotor diameter) Even without the battery, sensors and data already make this turbine 25 percent more efficient and 15 percent more productive than comparable GE models. Michael Polsky, Invenergy president and CEO, said that he picked the new system because innovation was “critical to our continued industry leadership.”
GE’s Longtin says that “wind power plays an increasingly important role in America’s energy mix.” He says that the “new marriage of battery storage and advanced software within a wind turbine allows forward-thinking wind energy producers like Invenergy to shift wind in its favor.”
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