May 10, 2018 Read More →

Wind Industry Hoping Artificial-Intelligence Breakthroughs Can Help Boost Turbine Performance

Bloomberg:

Makers of giant wind turbines are hoping that artificial intelligence can bring back some of the industry’s mojo.

While developers have spent $1.1 trillion on new wind farms over the past dozen years—helping transform the global energy landscape with renewable power—more money is going into new solar systems these days. Also, governments are phasing out subsidies, including programs in the U.S. that have offered $22 billion in tax breaks to turbine projects in the past 15 years.

To remain an attractive, lower-cost option for utilities, companies like Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Invenergy LLC are investing in technologies to squeeze more electricity from every propeller rotation. That’s no easy task. Modern turbines with blades that stretch 450 feet (137 meters) in the air already can twist and turn and spin faster or slower to adjust to ever-changing breezes. And they’re covered with sensors and control systems to make adjustments quickly.

But many still aren’t able to fully exploit weather and operational data in real time. For example, on wind farms with hundreds of turbines, the front wall of propellers creates a wake that reduces the efficiency for those behind. Making each unit more integrated with the rest could boost output as much as 15 percent, according WindWISDEM, an wind-industry software startup funded by venture capital firm YStrategies Corp.

Innovations will be needed for the next stage of growth in wind power, which accounted for a record 6.3 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. last year. Utilities are demanding that sources of renewable energy deliver more dependable flows to transmission grids. So, the industry is trying to use data analysis to narrow the efficiency gap in existing systems and better predict how much power they can supply to consumers before it’s actually needed.

“The grid likes certainly,” said Julia Attwood, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “If renewables can be more sure about their production, then that means they can supply more power because the grid operator can work that into their schedule for the day.

More: Smarter Wind Turbines Try To Squeeze More Power On Each Rotation

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