Convergence of Power Management Tech, Broadband over Utilities, and WindPower

There's plenty good news on new wind farm projects and environmentally compatible turbines. Balance-of-system wind farm components deserve some attention as well. Without the devices that manage voltage outputs from wind turbines, and match wind-energy to the grid requirements, there'd be no renewable energy for the masses, for example. Case in point: American Superconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: AMSC) recently announced that one of its voltage regulation systems will provide centralized control of the voltage for a 39.6-Megawatt (MW) facility in Canada. This will be the ninth wind farm in North America to rely on AMSC's voltage control technologies to connect wind- generated power to transmission grids.Convergence: Some TreeHuggers may be familiar with a recent proposal, also in Canada, to utilize electrical utility lines for provision of broadband internet access. Utility lines already have far greater geographic coverage than cable-TV lines. Wind farm projects; and, now, the potential for broadband over utility wires, drive government support to extend the grid deeper into windy, rural areas. Here's the green kicker: broadband over utility offers the possibility of remote monitoring wind farm and even individual wind turbine power outputs. That's a help for system maintenance, of course, but even a bigger help for those marketing and distributing green power.

Hypothetical Example: -- It's a blustery, rainy early fall day from North Dakota through Alberta, and the windfarms are pumping steady strong power into the high-plains grid. Northern Maine and upstate New York wind farms are experiencing highly variable winds as Canadian cold fronts clash with warm coastal winds from an incoming nor'easter. Green energy customers in the Mid-Atlantic US are enveloped by a hot muggy front. Air conditioners are fully engaged.

Wind power from North Dakota costs slightly more for the distributor; so, finding the local weather projections inadequate for buy decisions, the distributor rep logs onto the power conditioning monitors for upstate NY wind farms and gets a ground-truth look at rolling average voltage output before deciding whether to buy the balance of its supply from North Dakota for a few days. Deciding to buy some for the next 48 hours, the rep sets a "flag" to ping his control site as soon as NY and Maine windfarms get back up to speed. His contract has a hedge that lets him back out to a 24 hour committment if the speed gets back up fast enough. Etc.

by: John Laumer

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