By Sho Chandra, Rich Miller, Peter Burrows

At the Top Crop farm in Dwight, Illinois, 200 turbines rise from a sea of corn and soybeans, their blades gently turning day and night to spin up wind energy. They talk to one another, unheard by the human ear, seeking to keep pace with their neighbors’ output.

If one falls behind, sensors reach out to an office about 850 miles away in Schenectady, New York, where General Electric Co.’s remote operations center, using data from 19,000 windmills, finds the most efficient way to help. Intelligent monitoring of the machines has helped GE fix faults, limit snags and pre-empt thousands of failures.

Machines increasingly communicate among themselves and with people. Mobile devices allow round-the-clock interconnectivity. Computers crunch terabytes of data. Such innovations have convinced economists from GE’s Marco Annunziata to Erik Brynjolfsson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that the stage is set for a wave of productivity gains to rival the 10-year Internet boom that began in 1995…

… History suggests that productivity gains driven by general-purpose technologies can come in waves, University of Chicago professor Chad Syverson wrote in a paper earlier this year. That was the case with electrification around the turn of the last century, when a decade-long acceleration in productivity was followed by a multiyear slowdown, then a subsequent speedup…

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Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Renewable Energy
Renewable Energy
Lower technology costs and supportive public policies are driving an increase in renewable energy in markets around the world. EPIC research is assessing the costs, benefits, and efficiency of policies...