The WILLOW consortium seeks to revolutionise offshore wind farm control

The 12 project partners have convened at the steering committee meeting, on the 7th and 8th of May of 2024 in the facilities of WÖLFEL in Höchberg, Germany, to review the status of the project which started in October 2023.

WILLOW, Wholistic and integrated digital tools for extended lifetime and profitability of offshore wind farms, aims to achieve an integrated system that will provide an open-source, data-driven health aware curtailment strategy to the offshore wind farm operators. This integrated wind farm control system will look for a trade-off between the power production and the lifetime consumption. Therefore, physical models and data-driven models (AI/ML) will be used to assist decision-making and planning of wind turbine operation and maintenance (O&M) activities. With a 5.8 million euro budget granted within the framework of the Horizon Europe programme, it is expected to contribute to a 50% reduction on the inspection costs, a 5-years lifetime extension of offshore wind farms, a 4% reduction in noise pollution and up to 10% reduction of LCOE (Levelized Cost of Energy), between 3.5 and 4.5 €/MWh.

As wind energy gains ground on the energy market, wind farms will play an increasingly important role in the stability of the electric system. Nowadays, wind farms must deliver commanded output power following the needs of grid operators, as electricity generation has to match demand on real time, which implies producing less power than available. Today this is done either by shutting down a few turbines and letting others produce maximum power, or by down-regulating each turbine by the same amount.

Although these strategies may negatively affect the fatigue life of the turbine, the optimization of these decision-making schemes is extremely complex due to the need to better understand and include many factors such as component degradation, the particular complexity of grid integration, or specific offshore issues like corrosion or the additional loads from waves, tides and currents.

In order to solve all these challenges, WILLOW aims to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Development of a global structural health monitoring (SHM) based on loads, accelerations, images, and thickness losses, considering fatigue progression, pitting corrosion and coating degradation by using physical and virtual sensors combined with Machine Learning (ML) techniques.
  2. Development of prognosis tools by combining SCADA and SHM data, using physical models and ML methods to predict the consumed lifetime and the remaining useful life.
  3. Development of a decision-making support tool for smart power dispatch in curtailed conditions and O&M scheduling.

WILLOW project uses SCADA and other measurements as well as design information provided by Norther Offshore Wind Farm, which consists of 44 turbines with a maximum capacity of 370 MW and is located in the Belgian North Sea. Furthermore, WILLOW is using two offshore test facilities in order to obtain other necessary data and measurements. On the one hand, there is the Blue Accelerator, a maritime innovation and development platform. It is a test site for research new coatings and monitoring solutions, which is located at 500 meters off the port of Ostend in Belgium. On the other hand, there is the HarshLab, the largest floating laboratory for the offshore industry. Equipment, new materials and coatings can be evaluated in a wide variety of conditions ranging from atmospheric to seabed, and it is moored in Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BiMEP), situated in the Gulf of Biscay, north of Spain.

The project is being carried out thanks to the collaboration of 12 partners from 5 European countries. The coordinator of the project is CEIT, a Basque technological centre from Spain, as well as ALERION, a developer of fully automated drone solutions, the BASQUE ENERGY CLUSTER, an association formed by Basque entities of the energy sector and TSI, specialists in engineering techniques and services. The Belgian partners are 24SEA, experts in SHM services of offshore structures, FLANDERS MAKE and SIRRIS, research centres, NORTHER, offshore wind farm developer and VUB, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Finally, there is C-CUBE, a specialist in corrosion and wear from The Netherlands, SINTEF, a Norwegian research organisation and WÖLFEL, a German expert in engineering and system solutions especially in SHM offshore and onshore structures.

It is worth mentioning that WILLOW sparks great interest among expert representatives, who will support the project by being part of the Advisory Board. Some of the members of WILLOW’s Advisory Board are: two certification companies, DNV Renewables Certification and SGS TECNOS; the offshore wind developers CAPITAL ENERGY and PARK WIND, several engineering such as AEROBLADE, NAUTILUS Floating Solutions and ISATI Engineering Solutions; the service provider to wind farms NABLA WIND POWER, the manufacturer SMULDERS and the association WFO, World Forum Offshore Wind, between others.

For more information about the project, which is funded by the European Union, visit the official website:, follow the LinkedIn page @WILLOW Project EU and watch the video of the project.