Bigger, better: Siemens’s six-megawatt wind turbine
features the world’s largest blades. It relies on
sensors and algorithms to survive harsh weather.


Novel Designs Are Taking Wind Power to the Next Level

New technology, including better control algorithms and communications, is improving the performance of wind turbines.

By Kevin Bullis on February 6, 2013

Superficially, wind turbines haven’t changed much for decades. But they’ve gotten much smarter, and considerably bigger, and that’s helped increase the amount of electricity they can generate and lower the cost of wind power.

GE’s new 2.5-120 wind turbine, announced last week, is a case in point. Its maximum power output, 2.5 megawatts, is lower than that of the 2.85 megawatt turbine it’s superseding. But over the course of a year it can generate 15 percent more kilowatt hours. Arrays of sensors paired with better algorithms for operating and monitoring the turbine let it keep spinning when earlier generations of wind turbines would have had to shut down.

The technology is part of a trend that’s made wind power almost as cheap as fossil fuels. In 1991, wind power cost 15 cents per kilowatt hour. The cost has now dropped to 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, says Ryan Wiser, deputy group leader for Electricity Markets and Policy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, California. New natural gas power plants are expected to generate electricity at about 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

A new generation of more productive wind turbines that’s coming on line this year could be what it takes to make wind widely competitive with fossil fuels.

Read more: Smarter Wind Turbines Help Wind Power Compete with Fossil Fuels | MIT Technology Review.

Home           Top of page