In 1996, IBM's Deep Blue computer made history by beating world-renowned chess champion Garry Kasparov in the second six-game match between the two. Now, the same deep computing technology that made Deep Blue possible is being put to use to make renewable energy generation more efficient.
Say hello to IBM's Deep Thunder project; a project that began the same year Deep Blue defeated Kasparov. The goal of Deep Thunder has always been to provide short-term, local weather forecasting and modelling for customisable local purposes. It is a goal that is now realising some success when applied to wind farms.
According to news reports, IBM has developed a new technology they have called Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting (HyRef). The technology combines hardware, software and local weather data to predict how much energy a wind farm will generate in a given amount of time and how local weather patterns will affect that generation.
For example, sensors in and around a wind farm will measure things like wind speed, wind direction and air temperature. That data will be combined with information regarding cloud movement, barometric pressure and other meteorological waypoints to create real-time weather forecasts, allowing better management of wind farms.
If the technology proves to be as successful as IBM has promised, it could theoretically be used for solar applications as well. The thing to remember is that the success or failure of the system will depend entirely on its accuracy. If HyRef is inaccurate in producing real-time forecasts, there will be no real benefit to renewable power generation.
As things currently stand, the biggest impediment to generating a significant amount of energy through renewable sources, like wind and sun, lies in the unpredictability of weather events. We all know how inaccurate a 24-hour weather forecast can be; IBM will have to overcome greater obstacles to accurately produce real-time forecasts capable of making renewable energy sources more efficient.
Hoping for Success
IBM is to be applauded for identifying a problem with renewable energy production and being willing to invest in a solution. Proponents of renewable energy hope for their success for obvious reasons. If HyRef meets expectations, it could be a major player in reaching a worldwide goal of producing 25% of our energy from renewable sources. If the system is not successful, it will at least give researchers more data to work with.
As the world becomes a smaller place through the Internet, high-speed data communications and superfast computers, our need for more energy will only increase. Computers require a tremendous amount of electricity for both operation and cooling needs. If we can produce more of that energy through renewable sources, it will be good for everyone involved.
There may be a day when the latest state-of-the-art data centre is completely energy independent thanks to a combined wind and solar system… when that day comes, the HyRef weather technology may be an important component in the proper management of the data centre's systems.