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GE's New "Brilliant" Wind Turbine Put to the Test

Earlier this year GE launched its new 2.5-120 wind turbine targeting low-wind-speed sites (7.5 m/s average wind speed, for IEC Class III and DiBT WZ2 environments), offering what it says will be better efficiency (25 percent) and power output (15 percent) than its current model, the 2.85-103.

The new system is now installed at a test site in Wieringermeer, The Netherlands (about 50 km north of Amsterdam), where it will be tested and validated through this fall.

GE touts its new turbine's pedigree as not just intelligent or smart, but downright "brilliant" due to its utilization of the "Industrial Internet" to help manage the intermittency of wind-produced energy, explained Keith Longtin, GM of wind products at GE, in an interview when the turbine was first announced. The system analyzes tens of thousands of data points per second with sensors on the turbines tracking everything from wind speed and direction to blade pitch, communicating with other turbines to share and compare performance data and more intelligently support voltage. "If the turbine knows what's going on with other turbines, it may not have to shut down," he explained. That also could expand to wind farms communicating with each other, across grids and county lines with different regulations.

That communication should also save time and money on the servicing side. If a turbine does indeed require maintenance, data about the problem is sent to the service technician who can figure out what parts to bring to specifically address a problem -- or whether an on-site fix is required at all.

The turbine integrates a small amount of energy storage (100-350kW) and "some forecasting algorithms" to predict power output in 15-30 minute stages. That's not overnight arbitrage on a megawatt-scale, but it does serve to "strengthen the grid for a short period of time," Longtin explained.

It's the "next chapter of where we're taking the business," he said.

The 2.5-120 is also taller than other turbines at 139 meters, with 120-meter rotors and 58.7-meter blades. Capacity factor exceeds 45 percent, which in a ~7 meters/second environment translates to more than 10 GWh/year, according to Longtin. (Power generation starts at 3 m/s, he noted.)

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