Imperial College London

Imperial leads international project on using big data to support offshore wind


Wind turbine overlaid on Chinese, EU, US and UK flag

A new project led by Imperial College London aims to lower the cost, and environmental impact, of offshore winds using high performance computing.

The project, Farming the ENvironment into the Grid: Big data in Offshore wind (FENGBO), is an international collaboration featuring academics from the UK, EU, US and China. The team’s work will use big data to create a new generation of computing tools that will support the design and operation of offshore wind farms. As part of the Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme the work will begin with a focus on the development of offshore farms in China.

Offshore wind has been gaining a lot of interest recently and is seen as good investment for renewable energy generation. However there are two barriers to seeing our coastlines dotted with large scale wind farms. Firstly the engineering required to build and install a turbine offshore is immense, and the differences in local conditions mean there is no single way to do it. The other issue is the cost. If you are going to invest time and effort into an offshore wind farm you want to know you are building the right kind of turbine in the right place to ensure maximum return on your investment, both in terms of energy and money.

We want it to be done intelligently, understanding what the best wind farm is for any particular suggested site.

– Dr Rafael Palacios

The FENGBO project, named after the Chinese god of wind, sets out to tackle both of these issues head on. The team aims to build a series computational tools to help design wind farms to get the best out of any particular site. It is not an easy task and it will need to take into account the complex interactions between the local atmosphere, the coastal ocean and sedimentary environment, aerodynamics, turbine response and integration with the local electricity grid.

“We want offshore wind to be a big contributor to the decarbonisation at a global scale, it’s a vast untapped resource in many areas of the world” says Dr Rafael Palacios of the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, “But we want it to be done intelligently, understanding what the best wind farm is for any particular suggested site.”

 The London Array, off the kent coast, the largest offshore wind farm in the world, Image courtesy of London Array Limited

The London Array, the world's largest offshore wind farm. Image courtesy of London Array Ltd


This kind of work requires a lot of data and the ability to crunch the numbers. Thankfully they have both. They will be using real operational data from existing wind farms as well as performance data from state-of-the-art wind turbines. Most importantly they will have access to Sunway TaihuLight, a supercomputer ranked as the fastest in the world, so they can to carry out their pioneer simulations.

“China is the main focus of this study and we will be working closely with our Chinese partners to facilitate the deployment of offshore wind in that country,” says Dr Palacios, "but we will be also building a suite of analysis tools that we hope will be applicable to coastal areas around the world and will release them under a suitable software licence for use for free by researchers anywhere on the globe.”

The FENGBO project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council through the Newton fund. It will run for three years until July 2020 and has a budget of £812,415 through EPSRC grant number EP/R007470/1. You can learn more about the other project’s funded under the scheme on EPSRC’s website.

The full list of project partners is:



Neasan O'Neill

Neasan O'Neill
Faculty of Engineering

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China, East-Asia, Energy
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