The ORCHIDS project (Offshore Renewable energy Cable Health monitoring using Integrated Distributed Sensor systems) is a feasibility study aiming to enhance subsea cable monitoring capabilities by combining emerging optical sensing techniques, resulting in the development of a smart cable management system that can be utilised during manufacture, transport and installation through to end of life. The study will include a market assessment looking at the commercial case for the technology, along with a technical review of different distributed fibre sensing techniques that can operate alongside Synaptec’s electrical sensing technology.
The project is funded by the UK government’s business innovation experts, InnovateUK. It has brought together a unique group of experts in an attempt to resolve 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” said 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.”
Henry Bookey, Senior Researcher at Fraunhofer UK, added that the project is the first step towards a combined smart cable system, enabling the mapping of technical and commercial challenges along the way to the first commercial deployment of the system. The use of optical fibres within modern cables as a cable condition monitor, combined with innovative current and voltage sensors, is an attractive prospect for offshore infrastructure monitoring.
EMEC is uniquely placed to offer a broad range of R&D activities and the centre is keen to utilise the project as an ideal way of exploring the use of its subsea cables as a means of developing new monitoring technologies.
Fraunhofer UK was established in 2012 as part of Europe’s largest application-orientated research organisation, Fraunhofer Institute, which is based in Germany with 67 institutes throughout the country, while EMEC has established an enviable reputation as the world’s premier facility for the testing of wave and tidal energy converters in real sea conditions. Synaptec was founded in 2014 with the aim of reducing the downtime and operating costs of electrical power networks through the use of cost-effective and high-performance instrumentation capable of underpinning present and future monitoring, protection and control functions.
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