Better, More Reliable Wind Turbines

The wind industry has been growing continuously and is an important part of fighting climate change by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.  Because wind is not constant, the main complaint from fossil fuel advocates is that coal, gas and oil can be burned consistently while wind power cannot.  The same argument is alleged on the solar industry, claiming that both wind and solar cannot be relied upon for second-to-second grid use.

A new report published on states that this is not necessarily the case.  A solar power plant in Spain produced power for 24 hours straight in 2011.  Now, GE has introduced a new line of wind turbines that are capable of generating between 20 and 24% more power than the best comparable turbine currently available.

GE was able to do this by changing the way the technology works.  The Brilliant 1.6-100 and 1.7-100 wind turbines will use a short-term, grid scale battery storage system paired with an “industrial internet”.  This system is able to not only predict times when power will be needed, but also when the wind will be blowing. This along with the increase in size will allow for better efficiency and capacity factor, the amount of energy a turbine produces.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a rule that “requires the people that run the grid to pay more for power that is more reliable and can reach the grid immediately — when demand spikes. Energy providers that take an hour or a few minutes to come online are worth less to those that work to ensure that when you turn on your lights, there is energy ready at hand”.  The industrial internet system on the new turbines will be able to notify grid operators and power producers when energy can be expected.  Energy that is produced when the grid is unable to use it will be fed to batteries and converted to electrochemical energy.  This energy can then be used almost immediately upon request.

So far, 67 of these turbines will be built in New South Wales in Australia and 59 will be built in Michigan as part of a wind farm. Additionally, 3 are being built on a farm in Mills County, Texas.  These turbines have potential to be a huge part of the renewable energy grid, especially since the current cost of energy produced by the turbines is similar to that of thermal coal.

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