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Press release: ORCHIDS project to address ocean energy electrical infrastructure integrity

Armoured sub sea cables at EMEC (Credit EMEC)

Armoured sub sea cables at EMEC (Credit EMEC)

Fraunhofer UK, part of Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation, has joined forces with Synaptec and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to develop an innovative solution to address cable and electrical infrastructure integrity within the marine renewable energy industry.

Funded by the UK Government’s business innovation experts InnovateUK, the ORCHIDS project (Offshore Renewable energy Cable Health monitoring using Integrated Distributed Sensor systems) has brought a unique grouping of expertise together to tackle one of the key challenges in offshore renewable energy.

“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”, remarks David Hytch, Offshore Renewables Specialist at InnovateUK. “Failure of cables can also lead to costly losses of revenue and hefty repair bills.”

“As business focused innovation experts, 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 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 said:

“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 at Synaptec Ltd adds:

“We are delighted at this opportunity to work with Fraunhofer UK and EMEC to demonstrate the potential to combine our unique electrical sensing technologies with cutting-edge acoustic sensing techniques. 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.”








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