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Introducing ELECTRODE: Connecting the dots on subsea cable failures

Published 17 November 2020

By Charlotte Strang-Moran, ELECTRODE Project Lead and Electrical Engineer at ORE Catapult

Subsea cable failure rates remain one of the key technological challenges facing the global offshore wind industry. Reducing failure rates is critical for driving down insurance claims. It’s an oft-quoted fact that 75-80% of the industry’s insurance claims are related to cable failure, with bills that can push the £10 million mark when lost output and repair costs are added together.

As wind farms push the limits in terms of turbine size, capacity, distance from shore and water depths – the urgency of the response grows with every year.

As an electrical engineer, I’m passionate about tackling this critical, industry-wide issue. That’s why I’m proud to be the technical lead for our new ELECTRODE programme, launched with support from the Offshore Wind Innovation Hub (OWIH), through which ORE Catapult is spearheading an industry-wide response to subsea cable failure rates.

What is ELECTRODE?

I’ll introduce ELECTRODE during my discussion slot at Cables 2020, and I will also cover subsea cable failures when I chair Asset Owners Question Time (10.30 on Tuesday 24th November) too. In a nutshell, we are developing an industry database that will collect cable failure data anonymously, while allowing trend analysis to develop.

In order for us to make advancements in cable failure, we need to know what the common issues are and where improvements should be targeted. ELECTRODE will very quickly enable us to start identifying key and recurring problems, which will bring huge benefits to the whole industry.

Fuelling UK home-grown innovation in this area is also a no-brainer: the UK is already a world leader in subsea technologies, products and services. We have the highest installed capacity of offshore wind, and that capacity is set to grow at an eye-watering pace in the coming decades. ORE Catapult’s mission, through programmes like ELECTRODE, is to ensure the UK supply chain is innovating cable failure solutions and poised to capture the future export market.

ELECTRODE will be run on the existing and successful SPARTA model for anonymised operational performance data collection, trend analysis and benchmarking, and which now covers more than 98% of installed UK capacity with expansion into European waters too.

The anonymous data will provide an accurate trend analysis, helping to accelerate innovation and improvements in cable reliability, which will reduce the costs of downtime, repairs and insurance.

Ten offshore wind industry players are now signed up to the programme, together with a major insurance group that covers offshore wind assets.

ELECTRODE complements ORE Catapult’s other cables programmes, including:

  • World-leading test and validation facilities: high-voltage and materials laboratories, a dynamic cable test rig and the new eGrid installation, which simulates connections with the national grids of different countries of the world.
  • Portfolio of technology innovation and demonstration projects that support innovative SMEs like Synaptec in launching new services to the subsea cables market
  • Collaborative academic-industry research projects that are transforming understanding of every point of cable infrastructure and lifecycle, from manufacture to decommissioning.

Find out more at ore.catapult.org.uk and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @ORE Catapult