Ørsted invests in birdlife monitoring technology

4C Offshore | Tom Russell
By: 08/06/2022 Ørsted A/S

Ørsted has announced plans to help test and commercialise a new technology to collect more and better bird life data at its wind farms around the world.

Ørsted and venture capital firms Nysnø Climate Investments (Nysnø), Wiski Capital, Norrsken Foundation, and Antler have invested in Spoor AI via a seed funding round. Spoor is a Norwegian ‘deeptech’ start-up which has built a specially designed artificial intelligence (AI) system to monitor and track bird life at offshore wind farms. Ørsted will also enter into a partnership with Spoor to develop and commercialise its technology at Ørsted’s offshore wind farms.

The offshore wind industry currently uses precautionary models to estimate possible collisions at wind farms when designing them. The Spoor system is designed to increase confidence in those predictions, helping to build statistical evidence in this field. Data from systems like Spoor’s is expected to help Ørsted and the offshore renewables industry refine wind farm project design while improving efficiency.

Benjamin Sykes, Vice President and Head of Ørsted’s global centre of environmental expertise, said: “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 behaviour, so we can design and build wind farms that actively deliver net-positive biodiversity outcomes.”

He continued: “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.”

Ask Helseth, CEO of Spoor, said: “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. 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.”  
Spoor’s system combines video tracking and AI technology to identify and track birds specifically. Ørsted claims that the Spoor system has no blind spots and is more cost-effective than alternatives.

Once the technology has been tested and commercialised, Ørsted and the broader offshore wind industry will have access to more reliable camera arrays than was previously possible, providing better results. Ørsted claims that this will enable it to install many more cameras across a wind farm and get much greater spatial and temporal data coverage.  

Maria Hoffmann, Head of Ventures & Open Innovation at Ørsted, said: “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 behaviour at sea. This investment also signals our commitment to support innovative start-up companies through our Ventures Programme and to develop knowledge and technologies that can reduce cost and risk, while enhancing sustainability and producing economic benefits.

“Working through Ørsted’s wider Research, Development & Innovation Programme, 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.”

Ørsted will share its knowledge and data from selected offshore wind farms with Spoor plus provide access to several real-world demonstration sites. It 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.