A solution to wind turbine maintenance with Nimrod Knoller
“Our goal today is to bring the wind industry to where the automotive industry is going. Our technology will make autonomous wind parks a possibility.”
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Before he founded Onwrks, Nimrod Knoller worked as a rope access technician in the wind industry. His job was to abseil down from the nacelle on the blades and either document or repair access to the blade. Even though this job had “the best view of any other jobs in the office”, this experience made him realise that technicians and operators had a lot of communication difficulties. This is when he decided to found Onwrks, a Berlin-based software startup, specialising in digital tools for wind turbine data management.
Hello Nimrod. You told me you decided to create Onwrks in order to fill a gap in the industry that you were experiencing in your day-to-day job. Can you develop for us.
The problem with wind turbines is that a single farm operator has several of them, dispersed all over the country, sometimes even all over the world. This often causes a lot of communication difficulties between the technicians and the operators. In addition, I realized that all our documentation was paper based. This means that no analytics can be done on it without having to spend a lot of time digitizing it.
How will Onwrks fill this gap?
Our idea was to build a platform which would facilitate both documentation and communication between operators and technicians.
To our surprise, when we started contacting operators we realized that they didn’t need our platform. Most of them were barely analyzing the data they already had — they couldn’t deal with more. We had to take a different approach. We changed the team to be more machine-learning-oriented. What we are offering operators now is a plug & play system to perform deep analysis on their data using deep learning algorithms. We still want to build our original platform at some point but it will be integrated with our new system.
Our goal today is to bring the wind industry where the automotive industry is going. Our technology will make autonomous wind parks a possibility. This means that wind farms would be able to optimize themselves, predict their own maintenance and commission the work . There is still a long way to go but this is the future that will make the wind industry really flourish.
How does it work concretely?
It’s pretty simple. The turbine continuously collect data about their condition and send it to the operator. We run that data through our algorithm and it detects failures and potential breakdowns that would otherwise be missed. The operator can then plan their maintenance in advance or fix small malfunctions instead of waiting for a full scale breakdown. This can save operators hundreds of thousands of euros.
What is the biggest challenge that the wind industry has to achieve today in order to keep expanding?
The wind industry’s biggest challenge today is that it is still quite dependent on favorable policies. If 2016 taught us anything is that politics can change very quickly in unpredictable ways. For the wind industry to ensure continuous growth it has to become completely independent of subsidies.
Interview by Anne-Sophie Garrigou