If you thought the service people climbing old-fangled telephone poles had it bad in terms of occupational hazards, consider what it must be like to fix a broken wind turbine. Certainly not for those who are threatened by heights.
Fortunately, there are all sorts of information technology companies working on gadgets and products to help manage these things, including Intel's Embedded and Communications Division, which absolutely expects to play a significant role in the smart grid.
Ryan Parker, director of marketing for the group in question, says that Intel's vPro active management technology has applications for equipment such as renewable energy technology, that can be connected to a management dashboard via an Ethernet connection. Specific to wind turbines, there are plenty of adjustments that can be controlled remotely via embedded technology, such as the pitch of the blades, which is crucial for generation efficiency.
When it comes to problems with equipment, Parker says most of the time (70 percent to 90 percent), these can be solved via a software fix. There's plenty that the group has learned about this sort of management from things like retail point of sale systems which, it turns out, can be applied to wind turbines. Of course, if there's an equipment or connectivity failure, all bets are off.
The net effect, though, is that the savings can be substantial for a wind generation company. What's more, there's a security angle. "This helps us make sure the right person is in the software and no one else, so people don't do nefarious things, he says.
Intel is talking to a number of the big turbine companies about and is already working with Mainstream Renewable Power on applications. The same principles could, in theory, apply for adjusting solar panels but Parker wasn't prepared to discuss anything specific.
The push on the clean tech front comes in parallel with Intel's push into intelligent energy management in the home. The sorts of things that might be possible are highlighted in this video from SmartPlanet about Intel's tablet-like energy management prototype.