Ørsted is collaborating with Spoor AI to test and commercialize a new technology to collect more and better birdlife data at its windfarms around the world. Ørsted and venture capital firms Nysnø Climate Investments, Wiski Capital, Norrsken Foundation and Antler have invested in Spoor AI via a seed funding round. Ørsted will also enter into a partnership with Spoor to develop and commercialize its technology at Ørsted’s offshore wind farms. Spoor is a Norwegian ‘deeptech’ start-up which has built a specially designed artificial intelligence (AI) system to monitor and track birdlife at offshore windfarms.

Ørsted will share its knowledge and data from selected offshore wind farms with Spoor plus provide access to several real-world demonstration sites: Ørsted’s own offshore wind farms. Ørsted is investigating opportunities to test and demonstrate the Spoor technology at several locations as part of its global fleet of offshore wind farms and will kick-start this partnership during 2022. 

Rapid energy transition is a crucial piece of the puzzle in halting and reversing biodiversity loss, as climate change is increasingly one of its biggest causes. But more new wind infrastructure means more interaction with the natural world, which climate action seeks to protect. That’s why Ørsted is looking for new ways to further improve its understanding of that interaction – to minimize potential negative impact alongside action to proactively enhance biodiversity.

By working with Spoor, Ørsted will continue to improve its understanding of how birds behave while travelling in the vicinity of its wind farms. With better understanding of bird behavior, wind farm design can be further optimized in line with Ørsted’s commitment to deliver renewable energy that has a net-positive biodiversity impact for all new energy projects commissioned from 2030.

It is notoriously challenging to monitor bird behavior, which is why the offshore wind industry currently uses precautionary models to estimate possible collisions at wind farms when designing them. Several recent studies, including ones supported by Ørsted, suggest that actual collisions are significantly fewer than currently modelled.

“As governments around the world ramp up ambitious plans to grow offshore wind energy capacity, and to curb climate change, it’s imperative that we continually improve our understanding of bird behavior, so we can design and build wind farms that actively deliver net-positive biodiversity outcomes,” states Benjamin Sykes, vice president and head of Ørsted’s global center of environmental expertise. “Spoor’s technology will help us better understand how different species of birds behave at and around offshore wind farms. It’s also an exciting example of how agile, entrepreneurial companies can deliver high-impact innovation when supported with knowledge sharing and investment by key industry players.”

Data from systems like Spoor’s will help Ørsted and the offshore renewables industry refine wind farm project design while improving efficiency. In turn, this will allow the offshore wind industry to build offshore wind projects faster and achieve the pace necessary to mitigate climate change in line with the 1.5°C scenario.

“We’re delighted to receive this direct investment from Ørsted, a renewable energy company with an industry-leading biodiversity ambition and the world’s largest offshore wind developer,” says Ask Helseth, CEO of Spoor. “It’s a clear signal of confidence in Spoor and the potential of our technology. This investment will accelerate the development of our software, its roll-out speed on existing wind farms, and enable new projects to include the highest standard of AI-based bird monitoring from day one.” 

The benefit of Spoor’s system – in comparison to available alternatives like the combination of high-specification cameras, radars and human observers – is that the company’s AI technology has been developed to accurately identify and track birds specifically. The Spoor system has no blind spots.

Once the technology is tested and commercialized, Ørsted and the broader offshore wind industry will have access to significantly more reliable camera arrays than was previously possible, providing better results. In turn, this will enable Ørsted to install many more cameras across a wind farm and get much greater spatial and temporal data coverage to ensure a much better understanding of bird behavior. 

“Ørsted’s Ventures & Open Innovation team is delighted to invest in Spoor and support their efforts to help the offshore wind sector build robust data on bird behavior at sea,” comments Maria Hoffmann, head of ventures and open innovation at Ørsted. “This investment also signals our commitment to support innovative start-up companies through our Ventures Program and to develop knowledge and technologies that can reduce cost and risk, while enhancing sustainability and producing economic benefits.”

The partnership will vastly accelerate Spoor’s technology development timeline by training the AI to relevant regional bird species and help ready the system to deliver better outcomes faster and at greater scale once it is commercially available to the broader industry. 

“Working through Ørsted’s wider Research, Development & Innovation Program, we’re also excited to leverage our knowledge, data and assets to accelerate Spoor’s technology development journey – as we have done, and continue to do, with many hundreds of collaboration partners,” adds Hoffmann.

Image: “A black streak in the sea off the North Norfolk coast – Common and Velvet Scoters taking a break” by Ian-S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

This post appeared first on North American Windpower.

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