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Vestas, IBM Partner to Improve Return on Wind Power Investment

Wind power company Vestas will use IBM BigInsights analytics software and an IBM Firestorm supercomputer to improve turbine placement, increasing energy output and returns on investment, the two companies have announced.

The companies said that turbine placement is a major challenge for the renewable energy industry, because turbines in the wrong locations may not produce enough electricity to justify their investment. The firms said the agreement will allow Vestas to expand its business into new markets.

Vestas will use the software and supercomputer to analyze petabytes of structured and unstructured data such as weather reports, tidal phases, geospatial and sensor data, satellite images, deforestation maps, and weather modeling research. The analysis, which used to take weeks, can now be done in less than one hour, IBM said.

This will allow Vestas to better predict clients’ return on investment before turbines are installed, the company said. Once turbines are operational, Vestas engineers will use the new software and supercomputer to predict their performance, analyze how each blade reacts to weather changes, and determine the best times to schedule maintenance.

Vestas said it expects to analyze even more diverse and bigger weather data sets reaching 20-plus petabytes over the next four years.

The Department of Energy reports that if the United States increased its wind energy capacity to 20 percent of electric capacity by 2030, the country could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a cumulative 7,600 million metric tons of CO2.

But as of 2009 wind only made up three percent of U.S. electric capacity. The American Wind Energy Association reports that new capacity in 2010 was barely half the amount installed in 2009.

Later today AWEA will release wind installation figures for the third quarter of 2011, showing that project construction is up and the cost of wind-generated electricity is down, which AWEA says is “thanks in large part to tax policy that works.”

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