Venture aims to improve wind forecasting

NEW YORK -- General Electric Co.'s energy-technology division and a Weather Channel Co. subsidiary announced a joint venture yesterday aimed at improving predictions of wind farms' output capacity.

GE Energy and WSI Corp. -- an Andover, Mass., company that supplies weather-forecasting technology to the aviation, insurance and energy industries -- will try to combine wind speed forecasting with turbine monitoring and management equipment.

Their proposed technology and services could help wind plant operators estimate how much power they can expect to generate on a given day, allowing them to compensate for still days by drawing from other energy sources.

Their plan is drawn from what is already done for hydropower. Just as hydroelectric-dam operators monitor annual snowpacks and precipitation levels to predict river depths and currents, wind plant operators could benefit from knowing predicted wind strength over several days to estimate how much power they can deliver to the grid.

"WSI and GE Energy will develop technology to collect real-time turbine and wind data, incorporate this data into proprietary forecast models, and provide customized forecast and operational guidance services," the companies said.


The technology would integrate radar and other basic weather monitors with wind farm operations data and advanced modeling software.

"At the wind farm, the wind and power forecast has implications on operations and maintenance of the turbines," GE Energy wind power product leader Minesh Shah said. "The same forecast also has implications in the areas of dispatch and balancing of power generation assets."

Alternative-energy analysts say prospects for further development of U.S. wind power remain bright despite the roadblocks presented by the depressed economy and tight credit environment.

Earlier this week, the cleantech market information firm Pike Research issued a report predicting that installed capacity for wind power will grow by a further 165 percent over 2008 levels by 2015, to 320 gigawatts. That is lower than trade group estimates but is still exciting, the firm's analysts say.

"We expect the technology would result in products that would serve this broader segment," Shah said.

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