A recent partnership between GE and the Strip District-based startup kWantera will make clean energy more affordable and more widely available.
kWantera, a software company formerly known as Mobile Fusion, agreed to offer their cloud-based energy-trading platform for use in Digital Wind Farm, a new project by GE Renewable Energy focused on optimizing wind turbines. The kWantera platform uses predictive analytics to forecast energy prices for up to five days. Wind energy producers, primarily owners of turbine farms, can then use that information to sell their output to power companies at a lower price than non-renewable energy sources such as coal or nuclear.
kWantera CEO Kyle O’Connor believes their product enables customers to make better decisions in a market where the least expensive power is used first. The potential profit gained by wind farm owners could also incentivize energy companies and developers to invest in more renewable assets.
“Our goal is to make wind energy as competitive as possible so we can get more wind farms up and running and use fewer fossil fuels,” says O’Connor.
The demand for renewable energy has increased among consumers concerned with the impact non-renewable sources have on the environment. Research by the US Energy Information Administration shows that, at the national level, wind’s share of total electricity generation has risen every year since 2001. As of 2015, the industry accounted for 4.7 percent of the country’s net electric power generation, with South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas receiving around a quarter of their electricity from wind turbines.
While renewable energy use has grown, the industry still requires further investment in order to stay a step ahead of other sources.
“Everyone wants to build wind and solar farms,” says O’Connor. “The problem is those are very expensive projects, and they’re hard to find capital to build. If you buy into the idea that the world is moving away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy, it only works if it’s self-sufficient and cost-effective.”
He also believes kWantera’s relationship with GE can contribute to the expansion of wind energy in the Pittsburgh region, which already receives wind-generated electricity from turbine farms located in the nearby counties of Somerset and Fayette.
“It’s not unthinkable that in the future, technology like ours combined with a strong wind farm could produce more power for an area,” says O’Connor. “Pittsburgh could be using cleaner power over time.”