Qubit Engineering is using quantum-inspired capabilities available on the Azure Quantum platform to optimize wind farm layouts and, in doing so, capture more available energy with the same physical wind farm assets.
Wind farms have achieved tremendous efficiency gains over the last two decades through hardware innovation. Software innovation, in the form of turbine layout optimization, can now further amplify these efficiencies.
Wind farm layout optimization is considered a key profit driver for developers and owners. And, as layouts become increasingly optimized, wind power becomes even more attractive as an alternative to fossil fuels, thus helping reduce the carbon footprint for consumers and businesses.
Optimizing wind farm layouts is challenging because individual turbine positions are highly correlated. Moving the position of a turbine even a couple of meters in the design process has the potential to affect the energy production of the entire farm over its more than 20-year lifetime.
To illustrate the complexity of the optimization, a modest wind farm with 50 turbines and 100 suitable locations yields an astronomical number of possible configurations:
Qubit Engineering, a quantum algorithms startup collaborating with Azure Quantum on industry solutions, takes an entirely novel approach by converting a complex optimization problem into a new format adapted to quantum-inspired optimization (QIO). Azure Quantum QIO enables Qubit Engineering to employ quantum-inspired techniques that combine classical algorithms and classical compute hardware while leveraging the scale of the Azure cloud. They combine all the constraints and equations describing the dynamics of a problem into a Quadratic Binary formulation. The problem is then cast into a large matrix with thousands of variables and millions of values — not practical to tackle using traditional techniques — but solvable using Azure Quantum QIO.
This approach demonstrably performs 1 percent to 3 percent better than the traditional next best approach in the industry, confirmed by multiple leading turbine manufacturers and wind farm developers, including RES, the world’s largest independent renewable energy company. This 1 percent to 3 percent improvement translates to megawatts of energy which in turn can power hundreds of additional households over the lifetime of a wind farm — at no additional capital expense.
“RES have been working successfully with Qubit Engineering to improve wind farm energy yields. We look forward to seeing the improvements produced by their latest developments with Azure Quantum, which should help us to further increase the value of wind energy projects across our global portfolio ” says Tom Young, Senior R&D Specialist at RES.
Building off this success, the Qubit Engineering and Azure Quantum teams are now working together to address a truly pioneering problem: showcasing the impact of optimization on a large 1,000-turbine wind farm. This requires grappling with tens of thousands of variables and billions of values.
“Such a large problem is simply intractable using traditional optimization techniques,” says Qubit Engineering CEO Marouane Salhi. “The complexity of it makes it incredibly interesting from both an energy and computational perspective. We’re leveraging both quantum-inspired algorithms and the cloud-scale offered by Azure Quantum to solve a relevant problem to today’s wind energy industry, against the backdrop of an accelerating need to develop larger and larger wind farms. ”
The additional energy that could be generated by optimizing large wind farms with smarter layouts could be in the tens of megawatts per individual wind farm, collectively powering thousands of additional households with no change in physical assets. It’s easy to extrapolate the cumulative potential benefit applied to multiple wind farms.
For Qubit Engineering and Azure Quantum, this work is just scratching the surface of what is possible. Qubit Engineering is researching how to expand to other areas of renewable energy system optimization, while Azure Quantum continues to develop and share with its solution partners a cutting-edge technology platform on which these impactful applications can thrive.
We are excited to showcase the pioneering work of Qubit Engineering as an example of our community of quantum solution partners. If your enterprise is interested in exploring quantum computing, quantum-inspired optimization, and Azure cloud services for renewable energy optimization solutions, you can express your interest today.