Danish energy company Vestas Wind Systems plans to use IBM software and systems to help improve wind turbine placement, a major challenge for the renewable energy industry. Vestas believes that improving turbine positioning will speed up the adoption of wind energy internationally and help the company expand into new markets.
Vestas will use IBM BigInsights software and "Firestorm" supercomputer to analyse petabytes of structured and unstructured data. The data includes weather reports, tidal phases, geospatial and sensor data, satellite images, deforestation maps and weather modelling research, which all comes together to ascertain optimum turbine placement.
IBM InfoSphere BigInsights software is the result of a four years development by IBM Research. It’s powered by the open source technology Apache Hadoop and provides a framework for large scale parallel processing and the ability to enable "what-if" scenarios. When applied to the turbine placement problem, analysis that used to take weeks can now be done in less than one hour.
When the turbine is up and running the software and supercomputer will continue to be used to predict performance, analyse how each blade reacts to weather changes and determine the best times to schedule maintenance.
There are ambitious government targets for renewable energy production across Europe, so any technology that helps speed up the process is a help. Using heavyweight data analysis in this way should not only make things quicker, but also add more certainty to predictions of energy production and return on investment from specific turbine placements. That in turn should help in the planning application process, the biggest obstacle to onshore wind farms in the UK.
There will be increasing demand for any green ICT solutions that can help speed up renewable deployment (including the Bluesky research I mentioned previously). IBM’s solution is just one example at the top end of the IT spectrum.