Spinning Time Series into Efficient Wind Power

Operating sustainably and promoting green practices can be more complex than you imagine. The benefits of sustainable practices can be significant for businesses, people and the planet. Companies need to ensure that they’re achieving those benefits in a way that complies with established rules and regulations to maximize the impact these initiatives have.

Wind is an important source of renewable energy, accounting for more than six percent of global electricity in 2020. Wind turbines generate electricity by capturing kinetic energy from the wind, without using fossil fuels, which translates into reduced carbon emissions. This inexhaustible energy source creates jobs and wealth for the local economies where they operate, making communities more productive and healthier all around.

Against this backdrop, InfluxData is incredibly proud that VLEEMO (an abbreviation for “Vlaamse Ecologie Energie Milieu Onderneming,” which translates to “Flemish Ecology Energy Environment Company”) leverages InfluxDB as part of Factry Historian. Created by two Flemish companies specializing in renewable energy, VLEEMO is a pioneer in the wind energy field and uses time series data to optimize wind turbine performance and meet regulatory requirements.

Harbor-based wind farming

VLEEMO manages 38 wind turbines that are scattered across the harbor of Antwerp (Belgium), Europe’s second-largest port. Together, these wind turbines generate enough power for more than 90,000 households.

Operating wind turbines in the harbor can be challenging, and it’s VLEEMO’s responsibility to make sure that they run both efficiently and safely. Turbine operators need to consider multiple factors on a day-to-day basis to ensure the turbines are clear for operation, and VLEEMO must abide by regulatory and safety boundaries, as well.

Operating within complicated constraints

The first regulatory boundary relates to shadow flicker. Shadow flicker occurs on sunny days when wind turbine blades cast a shadow across the landscape, causing an on-and-off flicker effect as the blades rotate. These moving shadows can be a nuisance to people and even cause headaches and stress. Therefore, Belgium limits the amount of allowed shadow flicker to a maximum of 30 minutes per day.

There are also physical safety concerns when operating wind turbines in cold, icy conditions. Ice can form on the blades, which can present a potential danger to nearby people and structures if ice is inadvertently discharged from the blades.

Collecting the necessary data to operate within these boundaries is critical to ensure the turbines maximize their energy output for the people and businesses that rely on them. Prior to working with InfluxDB, collecting this data was tedious and time-consuming, and lacked real-time insights. VLEEMO monitored its turbines using limited, remote-controlled SCADA systems. Turbine operators had to manually evaluate these systems for each individual turbine. It was inefficient and often resulted in reduced electricity production.

Harmonizing energy production with human interaction

Tracking individual turbines in real-time would allow VLEEMO to maximize the amount of energy produced at all times. To accomplish this, VLEEMO uses InfluxDB as part of Factry Historian, a powerful and easy-to-use data management platform, to layer additional data sources on top of existing data, creating a complete snapshot of each turbine that VLEEMO could access at any point in time. This created a two-way information stream that enabled VLEEMO to analyze received data and send instructions back to each turbine accordingly.

For example, by using temperature sensors on the wind turbines and combining that data with weather forecast data, VLEEMO could now predict when icy conditions will occur and proactively shut down the turbines. VLEEMO can then use its blade heating system to remove ice from the blades and restart turbines once they pass a visual inspection.

Similarly, VLEEMO uses time series data to anticipate when shadow flicker will occur and correlate that information with data about when people will actually be in the vicinity of the turbines. Because many turbines are located near an industrial area, VLEEMO can schedule them to run at optimal times to avoid shadow flicker when people are around, and to allow the flicker when they’re not, such as on weekends or holidays.

Capturing and managing time series data allowed VLEEMO to operate turbines as efficiently as possible, while ensuring they meet regulatory compliance and maximize energy production. Improving operational efficiency also contributes to Antwerp’s continued efforts to support sustainable energy. VLEEMO is a shining example of how time series data can help create a greener world. At InfluxData, we’re incredibly honored to be part of these kinds of initiatives that are driving such an impact for our customers, their communities and the planet.