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Minimising energy loss in offshore wind farms

CASE STUDY: FLIGHTFORM INSIGHTS AND UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

How Flightform Insights collaborated with University of Southampton to develop a novel wake and wind generation model

Flightform Insights is a London-based, micro company, serving the energy industry with data analytics and professional consulting services derived from satellite earth observation. It helps developers to improve their decisions on location, co-location, and turbine configuration by applying spatial analysis and computer vision algorithms.

The company’s goal is to transform the planning and pre-planning phases of offshore wind projects. As part of this goal, Flightform Insights is focused on helping offshore wind developers to optimise the turbine layout of their windfarms by minimising the losses caused by the influence of the turbine wake on the water surface.

Novel wake and wind generation model

To help to achieve this vision, the company signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme to collaborate with SPRINT partner, the University of Southampton, to leverage the University’s world-class expertise in fluid dynamics, applied to renewable energy. This would help to develop a novel wake and wind generation model that can predict the energy output and estimated energy losses from any configuration of wind turbines, thus minimising energy losses from offshore wind farms.

The SPRINT project focused on the observation of real-life wakes – the ‘wind shadows’ cast by wind turbines – that reduce the wind speed and alter the wind flow characteristics for adjacent turbines downwind. It used a combination of earth observation satellite images of European offshore wind farms and existing theoretical models to observe wakes on the water surface in offshore wind farms.

Outcomes of the SPRINT project included:

  • Accelerated product development cycle by around a factor of three
  • Enabling Flightform Insights to target commercial launch of product in 2022
  • Maintaining collaboration with the University of Southampton for future projects

University partnership has been key

Tatiana Suarez, Founder at Flightform Insights said: “This particular project looked at the best layout of wind farms to minimise energy loss for developers and operators.

“We heard about SPRINT at an accelerator event and the University of Southampton expertise was very applicable for this project. Although we have a product in the pipeline, we needed additional resources and capability to help us get to the first stage design of a commercial model and that is what SPRINT has helped to deliver.

“The collaboration with the University of Southampton has been invaluable for us, helping us to progress towards achieving our objectives. We’ve now progressed with the wind angle part of the process with good confidence but need a bit more work on wind speeds. We can then physically model our wake model.”

Tatiana Suarez, Flightform Insights

“The access to expertise has been irreplaceable and resulted in major time gains so we would definitely consider partnering with academia again for further commercialisation.”


Data informs university teaching

Stephen Turnock, Professor of Maritime Fluid Dynamics and Head of the Department of Civil, Maritime and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southampton added: “Our expertise covers maritime engineering and renewable energy, and the team at Flightform were looking for specific expertise in joining up the data to confidently predict the performance of wind turbine arrays.

“The SPRINT project was a unique opportunity to do this at scale, with a range of sites and a long timescale, and has extended our experience of working in commercial environments.

“It was interesting to understand how turbines perform in arrays and use the data to effectively operate wind turbines. This cutting-edge industry perspective is useful for us to apply to teaching and research, and indeed, the knowledge gained from datasets has already been fed into academic teaching this year.”

 

Stephen Turnock, University of Southampton