IBM helps develop new smart wind turbines

IBM has revealed that energy system supplier, Alstom, and Ikerlan-IK4, an energy technology research and development organization, are using IBM software to develop wind turbine control systems that significantly improve the performance of sustainable power systems based on wind-generated energy.

The new wind turbines leverage a sophisticated system of electronic sensors and software from IBM that optimize performance based on input regarding wind direction and speed, temperature and other factors. A central control system collects and analyses data from each turbine to remotely control individual turbine subsystems, perform diagnostics and manage wind farm power generation. Alstom and Ikerlan-IK4 are using IBM software to help develop and automate the "systems of systems" that controls the turbines and their interconnected communications systems.

“Leveraging IBM software helps us apply an automated process to the design and development of Alstom Wind control systems,” said Alfonso Faubel, Vice President Alstom Wind. “This advantage definitely allows us to deliver tailored solutions that are fully adapted to new emerging standards, markets and client needs.”

Alstom and Ikerlan-IK4 are also using the Gears Software Product Line Lifecycle Framework™, from IBM business Partner, BigLever Software™, to customise their designs to accommodate the varying climates and geographies where the wind turbines will operate. Alstom and Ikerlan-IK4 estimate that their use of IBM and Big Lever Software reduces development costs by as much as 25% and decreases development time by a factor of 10 for each product variation.

“The fact that the wind turbines can be customised to accommodate geographic differences and also adjust to ambient environmental changes adds a layer of complexity to an already a complex software development process,” said Dr. Salvador Trujillo, chief product line engineer at Ikerlan-IK4. “By using IBM Rational Software for model-driven development combined with BigLever Gears for product line engineering, we can reuse software assets and manage these variations at a pace that allows us to keep up with market requirements.”

Harnessing the power of wind is growing in popularity as a sustainable energy choice and is expected to make up as much as 12% of the global power supply by 2020. For example, Denmark supplies more than 20% of its total electricity consumption with wind power, by far the largest share of any country in the world and on particularly windy days wind has generated over 40% of the electrical power produced in Spain. According to a 2008 report by the US Department of Energy, obtaining 20% of America’s electricity from wind by 2030 would reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25%, or 7.6 billion tons.

Meanwhile, the European Wind Energy Association has revealed that more new wind power capacity was installed in the EU in 2009 than any other electricity-generating technology. The American Wind Energy Association reports similar trends stating that the US wind industry broke all previous records by installing close to 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity in 2009, making the year the strongest yet.

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