UPDATE: This story has been updated with financial performance data.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Electric(GE) - Get Report is introducing a wind-farm system that boosts production as much as 20% percent by linking turbines with software that not only gathers and analyzes industrial data but improves its analytical capability over time by learning from a machine's performance.
"Every business, including our own at GE, and every industry is being transformed by smarter digital technologies, and the greatest opportunity lies in energy," Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Power & Water, said in a statement. "The question is not whether to start down this path ... it's about knowing how to get the most out of your digital transformation. That's what will separate industry leaders from those left behind."
The new product is one piece of CEO Jeffrey Immelt's plan to boost sales from GE's sprawling industrial divisions as he sells off most of the lucrative finance business to focus on the company's manufacturing roots. About 73% of GE revenue, or $108 billion, came from industrial businesses last year. Of that, about $27 billion was from the power and water unit.
With the new wind-farm platform, which connects GE's cloud-based Predix system to the turbines, operators can adjust the machines in real time to achieve the best results. Cost savings from the technology, if applied to all wind turbines, would add $50 billion in value to the global wind industry, by adding $100 million in value to every 100 mega-watt farm, the company estimated.
Data pulled from the turbines into the GE network includes temperature, misalignments and vibration levels. "As more data is collected, the system actually learns over time, becoming more predictive and 'future-proofing' wind farms by maintaining top performance and avoiding the maintenance issues that typically occur as turbines age," GE said in the statement.
"We took existing farms, used industrial data and big data" and provided 5% more annual production, Anne McEntree, head of GE's renewable energy unit, said in an interview. When GE realized how much it was able to achieve just by working out inefficiency in existing models, executives began thinking, "what if we do this right at the outset?" she said.
GE's Wind PowerUp technology, on which the system was largely built, was introduced more than a year ago and has since been installed in about 4,000 units, the Fairfield, Conn.-based company said. It's expected to increase profitability by 20% per turbine.
"Big data is worthless without the insight to take action, and our vision for the industry is to use today's data to predict tomorrow's outcomes," said Bolze. By using the industrial-data software, "we can create a world where wind farms learn, adapt and perform better tomorrow than they do today," he said.
The wind-farm package will also include a suite of apps that cater to fleet managers and engineers, with corresponding tool kits and monitors.
"We envision that we are going to develop many more apps to come, as we work with more and more customers," McEntree said. "No one is even thinking about doing what we are launching today, the way we are coupling industrials and big data."
The new technology will allow GE to add a servicing component to its wholesale distribution of wind turbines as well. "We sell turbines today, and we are going to continue to sell turbines tomorrow," McEntree said. "But instead of selling turbines independently, we are going to work with customers to give them the best value."
The wind-power industry constitutes about 4% of global energy production, and will contribute roughly double that amount over the next decade, as countries increasingly look for low costs, low emissions, and less water usage, McEntree said.