Addressing cable challenge ... with ORCHIDS

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Experts have joined forces to tackle a key challenge for the marine energy sector.

Fraunhofer UK, part of Europe’s largest application-focused research organisation, is working with Synaptec and the Orkney-based European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to develop an innovative way to ensure cable and electrical infrastructure integrity for marine renewables projects.

Funded by the UK Government’s business innovation experts Innovate UK, the ORCHIDS project (Offshore Renewable energy Cable Health monitoring using Integrated Distributed Sensor systems) has brought a unique grouping of expertise together.

“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 operate,” said David Hytch, offshore renewables specialist at Innovate UK. “Failure of cables can also lead to costly losses of revenue and hefty repair bills.

“Innovate UK recognised the potential benefits of the ORCHIDS project to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy and improve the use of these technologies for sustainable, secure and competitive power generation in the future.

“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 help develop a smart cable management system that can be utilised during manufacture, transport, installation, and through to end of life for marine energy projects.

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.”

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 research and development activities and this project was an ideal way to explore how we could use EMEC’s subsea cables to develop new monitoring technologies.”

Glasgow-based Synaptec has roots in the University of Strathclyde’s Institute for Energy and Environment.  The company was founded in 2014 to reduce the downtime and operating costs of electrical power networks by providing cost-effective, high-performance instrumentation capable of underpinning present and future monitoring, protection and control functions.
 

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