Inside A Wind Farm Empire Control Center

Have you ever wondered about how all of those wind turbines in all of those wind farms around the country are controlled? Sure, there are local controls in place, but coordination of all of them to generate enough energy to meet the daily requirements of various utilities under varying power purchase agreements requires some type of central control solution. Iberdrola Renewables, one of the largest wind power providers in the United States, has one such control room here in Portland, Oregon.

The Iberdrola Renewables wind control center, which we got a tour of earlier this year, is quite a site to behold. Behind some pretty elaborate security measures sits a large windowed room that, from a glance from the outside, looks like another floor in a high rise. The control room is anything but though, hosting a wall lined with a myriad of large computer displays that provide real time information on an array of data ranging from energy outputs of specific turbines to lightning strikes across the country. Across from these displays are an arraignment of desks from which a host of folk work to keep all aspects of the wind energy process running smoothly.

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More than 50 people worked on developing the project, and “25 highly-qualified professionals” trained mainly in renewable energy, IT and telecommunications will man the facility to control over 800,000 inputs from 2,500 turbines across the country in real time. At the time of our visit over 41 wind farms were being tracked, with a target goal of over 5,000 megawatts of wind energy being tracked by the end of the year.

An Iberdrola representative explained to us on the tour that two shifts work on the systems which keep all wind operations up and running. The remote facilities where the farms exist typically are not locally manned during off work hours as a traditional plant would be.  The control center allows the Portland based team to respond to grid operator directives and to maximize the availability of facilities for energy deployment.

In such a large operation as Iberdrola has, the turbines at the various wind farms come from a variety of manufacturers. Each different turbine developer has their own software to help in maintenance and tracking down problems. All of these software packages are also in place in the control center, but rather than having to deal with so many different offerings the technicians instead developed a “central control system” which allows for better control than would otherwise be available if they were using only the default turbine vendor controls.  As our tour guide put it, “keeping track of thousands of turbines spread across multiple time zones, in different balancing areas is difficult and would be nearly impossible without a common control system.”

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.

    • It’s the war room for managing wind energy generation…I never knew. And, it’s in Portland! Very cool. Thanks for shedding some light on it.

    • Wow! It looks like something out of a TV show. Very cool!