Fraunhofer UK – part of Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation – has joined forces with Synaptec and the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to solve cable and electrical infrastructure integrity issues within the marine renewable energy industry.
Funded by the UK’s business innovation agency Innovate UK, the ORCHIDS project (Offshore Renewable energy Cable Health monitoring using Integrated Distributed Sensor systems) has brought a together a group of experts together to tackle one of the key challenges in offshore renewable energy.
David Hytch, Offshore Renewables Specialist at Innovate UK, said: “Subsea cable health is a particular challenge for marine energy and offshore renewables due to the hostile environment in which they are placed and have to operat.
“Failure of cables can also lead to costly losses of revenue and hefty repair bills.
“Thinking about the future and supporting projects involving businesses with high growth potential is exactly what Innovate UK is for and we are pleased to be able to provide funding for ORCHIDS and help to connect the collaborators through the Energy Catalyst programme.”
The project is looking to enhance subsea cable monitoring capabilities by combining emerging optical sensing techniques to enable a smart cable management system that can be utilised during manufacture, transport, installation, through to end of life.
The feasibility study will include a market assessment looking at the commercial case for the technology alongside a technical review of different distributed fibre sensing techniques that can operate alongside Synaptec’s unique offering.
Henry Bookey, Senior Researcher at Fraunhofer UK, said: “This project is the first step towards a combined smart cable system and will allow us to map out the technical and commercial challenges along the way to the first commercial deployment of this unique system.
“The use of optical fibres found within modern power cables as a cable condition monitor combined with innovative current and voltage sensors is an attractive prospect for offshore infrastructure monitoring.”
Matthew Finn, Senior Business Development Manager at EMEC, added: “Our core business is providing developers of wave and tidal energy devices with grid-connected test berths in the harsh conditions experienced around Orkney. However our infrastructure also opens up opportunities for a range of broader R&D activities and this project was an ideal way to explore how we could use EMEC’s subsea cables to develop new monitoring technologies.”
Philip Orr, Managing Director of Glasgow-based Synaptec, said: “We firmly believe that making full use of optical fibres that are now intrinsic to power transmission lines and cables will lead to improved instrumentation coverage in a cost-effective way, and to enabling a smarter, more adaptive electricity network.”