SSE Renewables and Microsoft use digital twins for better wind farms

SSE Renewables and Microsoft use digital twins for better wind farms
Unsplash/Nicholas Doherty

Project uses real-time data to understand how turbines affect wildlife and ecosystems

Elly Yates-Roberts |

SSE Renewables, Microsoft and Avanade are working together to create Azure Digital Twins of offshore wind farms and the surrounding environment to better understand the effects of turbines on wildlife and ecosystems. 

Avanade will work with SSE Renewables to deploy Microsoft’s digital twin technology – which creates a replica of a physical object or environment – to monitor changes in the atmosphere, reefs and marine and bird life around wind farms. 

Current processes require divers to count fish, which can be inaccurate and quickly become out of date. SSE Renewable will use Azure IoT to automate this process, helping energy companies to understand the full impact of their developments before they are built. 

“We will be using things like radar, lidar, motion sensors, satellites and drones to build an accurate, real-time view of a wind farm area,” said Dennis Breugelmans, director of development for international markets at SSE Renewables. “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, wind farm developers are guessing whether these things work. This project will help us know whether they work.”

Microsoft, Avanade and SSE Renewables first plan to deploy the technology on an offshore wind project in the Dutch North Sea, to support achievement of the Dutch government’s offshore wind targets. 

“As the world moves towards a more sustainable future, it’s critical that organisations and businesses measure the impact their environmental initiatives have on local ecosystems,” said Musidora Jorgensen, chief sustainability officer at Microsoft UK. “Using internet of things (IoT) devices in combination with the Microsoft Cloud lets you capture huge amounts of data that can guide environmental projects, ensuring they achieve their goals while remaining as eco-friendly as possible.”

During the project, SSE Renewables also aims to gather information about the behaviour of birds, bats, marine species, and artificial reefs and habitats, and understand how construction may affect these. Collected data will be shared with marine researchers, industry and the public to inform future windfarm projects and other developments that affect wildlife. 

The initiative builds on the partnership between Microsoft and SSE Renewables, which also saw the businesses use Microsoft Azure to understand how Scottish puffins are impacted by nearby wind farms.

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