Monitoring PEI Wind Farms

Remember The Man in the Blue Shirt? That’s the single person inside government that Ton Zylstra suggested we all need to find to aid us in our efforts to open up government data.

Well, I’ve long wished that live data for provincially owned wind farms at East Point and North Cape was made available to the public. I’d like both the raw data (like an XML feed) and friendlier visualizations to illustrate how much wind power is being generated, how much it’s earning we citizen-owners, and how much of the total demand it represents.

What’s nice about living in a small jurisdiction like Prince Edward Island is that the distance between we regular everyday citizens and our bureaucrats and politicians is quite compact: in this case my “man in the blue shirt” was Hon. Richard Brown, Minister of Environment, Energy & Forestry: about a year ago Richard and I first discussed the idea, and today we finally got around to having a formal meeting on it, joined by Ron Estabrooks, the department’s energy adviser (and a guy who knows a lot about energy).

The result of our meeting: the data’s there, via VestasOnline Business and all that needs to be done is to pull what’s needed together and make it available in a web-friendly format. Ron and I are coordinating how this is going to happen. (North Cape is a little more problematic than East Point as there’s only dial-up access to the site right now, so it might come later).

By far and away the most interesting thing I walked away from today’s meeting having seen was the public New Brunswick System Operator real-time system information, which looks like this:

New Brunswick System Operator table example.

What this table reveals, simple as it may appear, is pretty amazing information: the “Net Scheduled Interchange” figure indicates how much power, in megawatts, is flowing to (positive number) or from (negative number) power companies in New England (ISO-NE and NMISA), Quebec, Nova Scotia and PEI from NB Power.

In the case of the example above, at the moment I grabbed the screen shot this evening PEI was pulling 127 megawatts from New Brunswick (earlier in the day, when the wind was blowing harder and more wind power was being generated, it was only 30) and Hydro Quebec was sending New Brunswick 476 megawatts.

Peak energy demand in Prince Edward Island is somewhere north of 200 megawatts – it varies with time of day and time of year – and so if you know something about the demand, this table can give you a pretty good indication of how much wind energy Maritime Electric is using.

I learned a lot more today about wind energy and the North American electricity market too, and I’ll be relating that here in the days to come.

And stay tuned for live data from the wind farms!