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Cell towers to track electricity potential

Onsemble implements wind data collection system covering 95 percent of Texas wind farms via sensors on cell phone towers.

Onsemble places sensors closer to wind turbine rotor height to improve forecasting accuracy.

Wind data provider Onsemble announced today that it's completed a sensor network capable of tracking the wind data near 95 percent of the wind farms in Texas.

The Onsemble Network sensors, which collect data on wind speed, direction, and temperature, were placed on cell phone towers between 80 meters and 120 meters above the ground. As with other wind data sensor systems, the data is relayed back to a central hub and analyzed by a computer program to predict future behavior.

In the case of wind forecasting, Onsemble says collecting wind speeds at such heights, close to the height at which many wind turbine blades rotate, gives a more accurate data reading than had the sensors been placed right next to a turbine but close to ground level.

Using the real-time data from the sensors fed into its algorithm, forecasting predictions can be generated every 10 minutes. The determined behavior patterns and predictions for a given area can then be used by wind farm and grid operators to determine fluxes in available electricity.

The network includes 100 sensor hubs, placed strategically near wind farms throughout Texas, and will supply data to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the electric grid for about 75 percent of Texas.

Using preexisting infrastructure has become a common thread in many green tech projects.

WindPole Ventures, which has wind-forecasting sensor systems in Iowa and Massachusetts, places some of its sensors at heights of 40, 60 and 80 meters on old telephone microwave towers. In New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) is using 200,000 existing electricity poles to add Petra Solar solar panels with smart grid communications capability throughout the state.

Updated at 9 a.m. PT on November 12 to include the following correction: Onsemble is not a wind forecaster. Rather, it's a real-time wind data provider to wind forecasters.