Harnessing innovation to speed up the global green energy transition


By Alex Louden, Ørsted Senior Ventures and Open Innovation Specialist

At Ørsted, innovation is core to our business. 

Thanks to world-class engineering, we took offshore wind from science fiction to an energy source that’s cost-competitive with fossil fuels. 

But we’re not stopping there. Our goal is to create a world that runs entirely on green energy through continued, rapid, and collaborative innovation. 

We believe we can continue to harness existing and new technologies to make green energy more affordable, reliable, efficient, and sustainable across the value chain. 

But we know we can’t do it all alone. To spark the next generation of innovative ideas to speed up the global green energy build-out we seek out collaborative partnerships. 

We work with other industry leaders, start-ups, the investment community, and academic institutions all over the world through our global network of Innovation Hubs. For instance, we started the UK and Ireland Innovation Hub a year ago to provide a front door for innovators looking to collaborate with a global green energy leader like us. 

"To spark the next generation of innovative ideas to speed up the global green energy build-out we seek out collaborative partnerships." 
We’ve launched our first-ever interactive Innovation Report, “Better, faster, smarter” to share some of the exciting initiatives we’ve been pursuing here in the UK and Ireland, as well as elsewhere in Europe, the US and Asia Pacific. 

Read on to learn about some of the exciting projects we’ve been in involved in to optimise excellence throughout the lifecycle of an offshore wind farm, integrate systems toward decarbonising the world economy, and collaborate to achieve the greatest impact in our effort to tackle the climate crisis.  

Optimising offshore wind turbine foundation designs with Oxford researchers

Driving down the costs and environmental impact of wind turbines is critical to more widespread adoption of offshore wind technology. 

As a company we have a goal to have net-zero emissions across our full value chain by 2040. So we’re committed to working with our suppliers to try to cut the carbon emissions linked to the production and installations of our offshore wind farms – particularly steel. If we can use less steel in turbines, we can lower the “upstream emissions,” which helps diminish the environmental impact associated with steel production.  

We collaborated with researchers at the University of Oxford on multiple projects over the last 10 years, including the PICASO project, to optimise the design of offshore wind turbine foundations to make them more robust, but also more cost-effective and environmentally friendly by using less steel.  
Image of an offshore wind turbine and vessel
As part of the five-year PICASO partnership, we explored the effects of cyclic loading – the repeated loading that comes from the action of wind and waves, as well as the operation of the turbine – on turbine foundations. 

Through laboratory tests, theoretical and computational works, and scaled field tests in clay and sand, researchers have developed unprecedented data and sophisticated modelling. This research has enabled us to understand the physics of offshore wind’s foundations better than ever before.  

With the ongoing research, we hope to develop leaner, more robust foundations that can support bigger and more efficient turbines, reduce costs and de-risk commercial scale offshore wind farms. 

Harnessing innovation

To spark innovative ideas to speed up the green energy transition, we collaborate with organisations all over the world, writes Alex Louden, Senior Ventures & Open Innovation Specialist.

Fine-tuning renewable energy forecasting and trading

As we move to decarbonise the world’s energy system, it’s important to recognise that two of the primary sources of renewable energy – wind and solar power – are variable and dependent on weather. 

As a result, forecasting production from wind and solar energy sources is particularly critical to renewable energy developers, energy traders, and utility companies as they strive to understand future supply and demand.  
Image of an office worker sitting in front of a computer screen
This year we co-sponsored the Hybrid Energy Forecasting and Trading Competition aimed at developing state-of-the-art forecasting and energy trading techniques to accelerate the global transition to net-zero. 

A diverse group of over 50 teams from Sweden and Hungary to the US and China used artificial intelligence, cloud computing and weather data, alongside live generation data from renewable energy capacity in the UK (including our very own Hornsea 1 windfarm) to produce and submit forecasts and trades for a portfolio of wind and solar power in Great Britain. 

The competition contributed solutions to real-world forecasting and trading challenges that researchers and industry data scientists can continue to use to evaluate and benchmark their models. 

Partnering for impact 

As part of our aim to accelerate a sustainable green energy transition, it’s

critical that we embrace the principals of the circular economy and repair, reuse, and repurpose our assets and components at every opportunity.

That’s why we’ve partnered up with Plaswire, a waste specialist in Northern Ireland, to give offshore wind turbines a new lease on life.

Up until now, turbine blades have been notoriously hard to recycle. While 85-95% of a wind turbine can be recycled, the blades have presented a particular challenge.

To men standing in front of a turbine blade ready to be recycled
Designed to be lightweight, yet highly durable, blades are usually made of fibreglass or carbon fibre and are held together with resin. This makes them particularly hard to break down for recycling. As a result, most decommissioned blades end up in landfills.

But thanks to a successful pilot project with Plaswire which involved the shredding of blades for reuse in construction materials, we found a cost-efficient method to recycle 100 % of onshore wind turbine blades. Our continuing partnership aims to scale the technology for use in large-scale decommissioning projects.

Collaboration helps drive impactful innovation

At Ørsted, innovation is part of our DNA. We built the world’s first offshore wind farm in Vindeby, Denmark in 1991. Now with over 30 years of experience, innovation and persistence, this year we’re delivering the world’s single largest offshore wind farm Hornsea 3 – which will have a generating capacity of 2.9 GW. 

But we know from experience that we can’t make the kinds of strides that really scale technology – like we’ve done with offshore wind – alone. We need to collaborate with other industry leaders, academia and cutting- edge start-ups to drive impactful and meaningful innovation that has the power to transform the energy industry. 

Our door is always open to partnerships with innovators that might help get us closer to our vision of a world that runs entirely on green energy. 

Interested in working with us? Please visit our website innovation.orsted.com to learn more about us. 

Better, faster, smarter: Harnessing innovation to create the green energy systems of tomorrow​

Innovation is critical to delivering greater value across our core technologies, and reaching our vision of a world that runs entirely on green energy. Our innovation report showcases some of the core innovation initiatives we’re pursuing together with our partners.​