The way windfarms are built could be changed forever by a new project that uses real-time data to understand the effect turbines have on local wildlife and ecosystems.
SSE Renewables, Microsoft and Avanade are working together to create Azure Digital Twins of offshore windfarms and their local environment, which they hope will encourage the sector to develop renewable energy solutions that have a positive impact on ecosystems. A digital twin is an exact replica of an object in the physical world that can be studied and changed to help improve the real-life version.
Avanade will work with SSE Renewables to deploy Microsoft’s technology and monitor changes in the atmosphere, reefs and marine and bird life around windfarms. The huge amount of data from monitoring devices will be stored in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. It will be used to build a digital replica of sites that can be viewed on mobile devices and headsets to help SSE Renewables understand how a development is affecting an area in real-time, in addition to monitoring the ecosystem through the lifecycle of the windfarm to minimise any negative impact.
Currently, energy companies rely on manual ways of collecting data on how windfarms affect local environments, including sending divers into the sea to count fish, which can be inaccurate and quickly become out of date. By using Azure IoT to automate this process, SSE Renewables hopes companies will be able to understand the full impact of new turbines before they are built to ensure they don’t harm the local environment. It could also expand humans’ understanding of how the ecological, environmental and infrastructural worlds interact.
There are plans to deploy the technology on an offshore wind project in the Dutch North Sea first, to support achievement of the Dutch government’s offshore wind targets, before rolling it out globally in the future.
Dennis Breugelmans, Director of Development for International Markets at SSE Renewables, said this was the first time such a proposal had been launched.
“We will be using things like radar, lidar, motion sensors, satellites and drones to build an accurate, real-time view of a windfarm area,” he said. “It will enable us to see what’s working and what isn’t. For example, if we put an artificial reef on the sea floor and fish colonise it, then we can keep it. If the fish stay away, we can take the reef out and try something else. At the moment, windfarm developers are guessing whether these things work. This project will help us know whether they work.”