Wind Power

GE Introduces Digital Wind Farm that Could Boost Production 20 Percent, Re-ignites Alstom Buyout Talk

ORLANDO — General Electric (GE) is pushing its wind farms to join the big data revolution with its new Digital Wind Farm, announced this week at Windpower 2015 in Orlando, Fla. amidst talk that its $15 billion offer to buy Alstom’s power business is likely heading towards fruition.

The Nerdiest Wind Farm

According to GE, the Digital Wind Farm technology uses what it calls the “Industrial Internet” to crunch data and essentially make each turbine, and ultimately each farm, super-smart. This data will help boost energy production at each farm by up to 20 percent and integrate variable renewable power into the grid more smoothly.

“Our digital wind farm essentially couples big wind with big data,” said Anne McEntee, CEO of GE Power & Water. “We’re going to optimize the wind farm on day one, [which] enables us to customize every pad on site.”

It all starts with GE’s “brilliant” 2-MW wind turbines, which were released in 2013. These turbines are equipped with sensors that track wind speed, blade pitch, potential issues and other conditions. This data is collected from each turbine and analyzed, and the turbines are then able to “communicate” with one another over that same Industrial Internet to control overall performance.

On the digital wind farm, all sensors are connected and the data is analyzed in real time on GE’s Predix software. Operators will be able to monitor performance at the turbine, farm, and multi-farm level and pinpoint issues immediately. The more data that is collected and analyzed over time, the more the software will be able to actually predict performance, so operators can keep turbines running at optimal performance for the system’s lifetime. This predictive software may also reduce unnecessary maintenance costs.

According to GE, digital wind farms can save the industry billions. 

“If you have a 100-MW site, you’ll see up to $100 million in value for the life of the wind farm,” said McEntee. Everyone is leaving money on table, so it is important to use big data in real time throughout lifetime of farm…to maximize energy and power on site.”

Alstom Deal Fever

About one year ago, GE made waves when reports emerged that it intended buy France-based Alstom SA’s power unit, which includes turbine technology and a service business, for more than $13 billion. That number has since increased to $17 billion — GE’s biggest acquisition ever.

Now nearing the completion of a 15-month review period that ends August 21st, GE’s Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said he is confident that the deal will be finalized, according to the Wall Street Journal. To address fears that that the acquisition will monopolize the industry, GE may have to give up some intellectual property rights in the transaction.