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.
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.