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Wind energy has many advantages, making it one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sources in the world. In 2020, it surpassed nuclear energy and coal as Germany’s leading share in electricity production. While many parts of the world have strong wind speeds, the most effective locations for generating wind power are often the remote ones. It is here, where offshore wind farms offer tremendous potential.
ESA BIC Northern Germany’s latest incubatee is the young startup, Flucto. Founded in 2020, Flucto aims to enhance the installation of offshore wind turbines with the help of sensors, gadgets and software.
While working on a project together for the University of Bremen at the German North Sea, Flucto co-founders, Andreas Haselsteiner and Aljoscha Sander, came across a very unique obstacle – determining the best timeframe in which to assemble and install large turbine components. In order to finish their project, the pair needed a quick and easy solution to combat the challenges they faced working offshore. With the help of some sensors and an off-the-shelf plastic container, they spontaneously built a device that would be capable of measuring and receiving data to determine the precise timeframe for successful installation.
“That particular project helped us understand the product before it even really existed. As researchers, we always kept a close eye on the functioning of the device: Did the case keep the components dry? How long did the battery last? How precise was it? Where should we place the sensors? If we hadn’t done that project, we wouldn’t necessarily be at the stage where we are now. We knew that the product would work from the beginning and could make real use of that experience,” says Andreas Haselsteiner, CEO of Flucto.
While the boxes used for the University of Bremen project were only capable of logging data for subsequent analysis, Flucto’s motion sensor boxes will be connected wirelessly to a base station for real-time analysis.
The duo has worked hard to refine their motion sensor boxes and further develop their installation monitoring system with the help of the ESA BIC Northern Germany cooperation and the Galileo satellite constellation. Each Flucto motion sensor box consists of a battery, a screen and various sensors. The sensors help gather and incorporate measurements regarding weather conditions, sea state and orientation of the ship and turbine. These measurements will assist companies in determining whether to go ahead with installation or when to wait for more favourable conditions. Due to the complicated nature of the installation process, it is extremely important that the data received is as accurate as possible. The decision to make use of the Galileo satellite in place of GPS was therefore a no-brainer.
“Our product wouldn’t work without space technology. We rely on the Galileo satellite in two ways: firstly, spatial localization – where are we and where are our boxes. Secondly, and more importantly, is temporal synchronization. If you have a multitude of these sensors and you want to know how they work in respect to one another, you have to know their position spatially, but you also need to know in which point in time they were in that exact position. We require a very accurate time signal, down to the millisecond, in order to actually have our product work. This is where space comes into play. While we could achieve this through GPS, Galileo is more accurate in both space and time,” explains Aljoscha Sander, CTO of Flucto.
With their unique product, the Flucto founders have their sights set on enhancing renewable energy on a global scale and are currently in the development phase of creating two supplementary parts for their installation monitoring system – a base station that would allow for other devices to wirelessly connect to it, and a unique monitoring software for the collected data. The installation monitoring system will be comprised of three parts: the motion sensor boxes to track components, a base station to receive data, and a Flucto monitoring app to visualize and analyze data. The pair hopes that by connecting wave buoys and wind measurement devices, they can offer a broad ‘ecosystem’ of data sources for the companies responsible for setting up and monitoring offshore wind farms.
What’s on the horizon for Flucto?
Andreas Haselsteiner: “We want to focus on getting customers. We’d like our first customer this year, because it helps us develop or product for them. The vision is to create a great technology company here in Bremen to enhance renewable energy generation.”
Aljoscha Sander: “Fine-tuning our motion sensor boxes and our base station. It’s niche, it’s important, but I’m certain this is only the beginning. The idea is to build that ecosystem and to do something that adds value for future generations.”