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A Mighty Wind: Taking U.S. Power Generation by Storm

Wind farms have delivered 30 percent of all new American power generating capacity for the last five years. Wind also supplied more than 4 percent of all U.S. electricity for the first time in 2013, according to new data published by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). States like Iowa and South Dakota now get more than a quarter of their power from wind.

The AWEA study also found that the amount of power generated by wind turbines grew by 200 percent since 2008, “exceeding capacity growth and making [wind] electricity cheaper than ever.”

The industry group said that technological innovations like taller towers and longer and lighter blades were behind the growth, “effectively [driving] down the costs and [allowing] development to occur in lower wind speed region.”

Those innovations include new GE hardware and systems that connect wind turbines to the Industrial Internet, a network of machines talking to each other with software and data.

Wind farm operator ERDP Renewables, for example, is planning to install GE’s Wind PowerUp system at five wind farms in Oklahoma, Indiana and Illinois. The Big Data system could squeeze as much as 420,000 megawatt-hours of extra electricity from the farms’ combined 402 turbines. That’s enough to power 33,000 average U.S. homes.

PowerUp is using real time turbine data to improve performance, managing the speed and the torque of the turbines, the pitch of the blades and the yaw of the nacelles. It is also monitoring air flow and other parameters, and continuously “tuning” the turbines and looking for the best settings.

PowerUp could boost power output by as much as 5 percent per turbine. This could translate to a 20 percent increase in profit.

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The largest GE wind turbines can sweep a circle with a 120 meter diameter – almost twice the wingspan of a Boeing 747.

GE also built the world’s first intelligent wind turbine connected to the Industrial Internet. It comes with an integrated battery that can store excess power and release it when wind dies down. The turbine is using custom algorithms to analyze weather and turbine and grid data, and forecast how much electricity it will produce over the next hour. “This is predictable power,” says Keith Longtin, general manager for wind products at GE Renewables.

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. Each of the turbines can deliver 2.5 megawatts in output. Their rotors sweep a circle 120 meters in diameter – almost twice the wingspan of a Boeing 747.

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New space-frame tower design is using metal latticework wrapped in a fiberglass coat.

GE also developed a new 450-foot tall “space frame” wind tower that could allow wind farm operators to build efficient wind turbines in places that were previously inaccessible. Taller towers allow operators to use bigger blades and give them access to steadier wind streams. Large rotors can generate electricity efficiently even in areas with slower wind speeds.

Instead of traditional steel tube towers, the new design is using metal latticework wrapped in a fiberglass coat. The lattice girders can be loaded inside shipping containers and bolted together at the final destination. This makes logistics and transportation easier.

“The space frame tower helps our customers go taller in new locations, further enabling the growth of wind energy,” said Cliff Harris, general manager of GE’s Renewable Energy business in Europe. “This next innovation in wind turbine technology is a stepping stone towards towers taller than 150 meters in Europe.”

Tag: GE Renewables, Powering, ecomagination

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