Lords of the Data Storm: Vestas and IBM Win Big Data Award

Social Media Strategist, Information & Analytics Group

The Danish wind power plant manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems demonstrates impressively what can be accomplished today with big data and smarter analytics. It certainly convinced the 2012 Big Data Award jury at the Computerwoche Big Data Congress in Germany. Computerwoche magazine presented the 2012 Big Data Award to partners Vestas and IBM on September 26.

Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark is the world’s largest wind power plant manufacturer. It relies on the latest IBM hardware and software solutions to ensure that wind power plants planned by its customers are more efficient in design and profitable to operate. With the aid of its Firestorm, one of the largest privately used supercomputers, and a customized IBM big data analytics solution, Vestas can now, in the run-up to project planning, calculate in a few hours how much power will be generated at a given site in the decades ahead, how high the return will be, and how quickly the investment will pay off.

Vestas has 50,000 wind turbines in over 70 countries with an installed capacity of 51 gigawatts and is the world’s largest wind power plant manufacturer with a market share of 13 percent. Using the combination of an IBM supercomputer and a specially developed big data analytics solution, calculations and analyses that used to take several weeks now take just a few hours. The Vestas Firestorm supercomputer has a capacity of around 2.8 petabytes (1 petabyte = 1 quadrillion bytes, or 1,000,000,000,000,000). With its 1,300 servers, the Firestorm is one of the fastest supercomputers in the world and, due to the big data analytics software IBM InfoSphere BigInsights, can perform the necessary calculations easily. Data from the locations in question are linked with other factors such as elevation, topography, and satellite images. In all, 160 factors are analyzed that influence plant performance and service life. The data to be processed include both structured and unstructured data—a classical big data task.

“Vestas wind turbines are often in use for several decades. That is why our customers naturally want to know before construction work begins how much energy they will generate and what ROI they will earn,” said Anders Rhod Gregersen, Senior Specialist for Plant Siting and Forecasting at Vestas. “Thanks to IBM software and hardware solution, we can now answer these questions fast and reliably. That enables us to identify new markets for wind energy, and we can help our customers to achieve their ambitious renewable energy targets.”

Calculations that can be expedited include exact airflow models for any site. They improve the efficiency of siting and eliminate superfluous planning time as well. Vestas Wind Systems is currently the only manufacturer in the highly competitive wind power market that offers a plant planning option of this kind.

Earlier this year, Vestas was named a Computerworld Honors Program Laureate for its innovative use of technology.


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