It is no secret investment in renewable energy sources is outpacing to coal, nuclear, or natural gas. But a deeper look inside renewable energy investment indicates investment in wind power is growing faster than those in solar. One reason for ascendency of wind power is efficiency. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal pointed out that one megawatt of wind power provides enough energy for nearly 273 homes. Whilst one megawatt of solar power provides enough energy for roughly 164 homes. That is more than 66%.
On top of this, nearly 70% of the nation’s energy grid is more than 30 years old. Note this is the average, many power plants are much older than this. As such, one can assume that investments in wind power – which the American Wind Energy Association valued at more than $128 billion since 2005 – will continue to grow.
Another trend to watch in wind power is the deployment, and integration of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled technologies going forward. This should not come as a surprise. Efficient wind power generation relies on the integration of a plethora of sensors and devices. These include management of offshore wind farms, managing distribution in real time and even powering (pardon the pun) predictive analytics needed to supervise preventive maintenance programs.
In many ways, wind power generators are IoT devices themselves. Integrated sensors are increasingly being used to measure wind speed and direction. One example of this development is the partnership between Cisco System’s ParStream and Envision – one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world. The solution helps to analyze turbine data in near-real time.
Industrial networking is another case of how IoT-enabled sensors and controllers and wind power generation turbines are being tied together. This creates ‘Connected Turbines,’ which link the nacelle to an interface the base of the tower to a broader network of towers. One plus of this sort of network architecture is the redundancy. If a link fails, then data is routed in the opposite direction. Another plus is the ability to ramp up or idle turbines based on several factors such as wind direction, speed, operating condition, etc.
Don’t forget the data advantages. Connected Turbines create an ecosystem which leverages the collection of actionable data. This includes adaptive analytics to balance loads and reduce wear and tear on equipment. In addition, the data collected helps to develop more accurate demand and generation forecasts. This information will help utilities better time generation, and possibly storage, or energy which is then released based on more granular demand forecasts.
While storage (i.e. batteries) is not inherently an IoT application, the use of smart sensors will help to determine best practices for power storage and transmission. This could also lead to a major redesign of power grids. Not only in wind farms, but also in grids and microgrids.
A powerful use case is the Microgrid Automation Project (MAP) at the Las Positas Community College in California. The project was financed with a grant from the California Energy Commission and is expected to become ‘a blueprint for campus microgrids.’³
What does this mean for wind farm operators? A wind farm is a microgrid and using the lessons learned the Las Positas MAP can provide valuable insights on how IoT-enabled technologies can be deployed. Furthermore, it also opens the door for the installation of on-site wind generation. These installations are then merged with energy management systems to create a system-wide management system. Think of a Smart Building Management System (SBMS) on steroids. This is what the marriage of wind power generation, IoT, and data analytics means.
The final reason is all dollars and cents. Wind-as-an-IoT application opens the door to further reduce the cost curve. Granted costs are already falling dramatically. Since 2000, the cost per kilowatt has fallen by 40% to somewhere in the range of $0.05 to $0.10.4 Add to this the inherent efficiency of wind power, and one case make a case for wind as THE cost-effective energy source. But the work is not done. The next step is the integration of turbines with meters and sensors to create a dynamic ecosystem which can intuitively react to demand. Not only will this reduce CO2 emissions, but the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that wind power systems are already responsible for 90,000 jobs and growing. There is also room to grow, as the DOE claims the country has at least 700,000 square miles of land which is suitable for wind farms.
As such, there is a lot of room for wind power to grow and the integration of IoT-enabled technologies will help to reduce costs, build more dynamic grids, and more informed decision making. Together these factors will drive an energy revolution. One which is IoT-enabled and powered by wind generation. What is the next big IoT app? It’s wind, no doubt about it.
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1 Source: Sweet, C. The Wall Street Journal. U.S. Utilities Boost Investments in Wind, Solar Power. 9 May 2016. https://goo.gl/F7Rwxx. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
2 Source: Froese, M. Wind Power Engineering & Development. Talking with turbines through the Internet of Things. 19 April 2016. https://goo.gl/qCFi6t. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
3 Source: Cohn, L. Microgrid Knowledge. A Blueprint for Campus Microgrids: “Internet of Energy” Project. 20 February 2015. https://goo.gl/6wxRJ5. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
4 Source: Wood, D. United States Department of Energy. 6 Charts that Will Make You Optimistic About America’s Clean Energy Future. 28 September 2016. https://goo.gl/tFciKX. Retrieved 5 October 2016.