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The Catapult has appointed the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester to form the Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub.

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Sparking Future Innovation: Our Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub

Innovation has long been at the heart of the incredible growth of the UK’s offshore renewable energy sector. The development of new products and services used in the installation, operations and maintenance of renewable energy assets is underpinned by world-leading academic research.

ORE Catapult’s Research Hubs are powerhouse industrial / academic collaborations. Combining the UK’s existing academic strengths with extensive industry knowledge, access, and world-leading test and demonstration facilities, they can support the journey from early-stage academic research to the commercialisation of products and services for the sector.

As part of this blog series, we’ll dive a little deeper into each of our Research Hubs:

Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub

The Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub (EIRH) is a £3.1million, five-year research partnership between ORE Catapult and the Universities of Strathclyde and Manchester that aims to address key industry challenges in electrical infrastructure.

The EIRH will fund 10 PhD projects and a total of 15 project years of post-doctoral research activity (PDRA) over five years, with associated academic and industrial supervision, facilities access and oversight from senior academics and management.

This Hub aligns with our Electrical Infrastructure Knowledge Area, a key strategic area that develops products and services to address current challenges for renewable energy electrical infrastructure. Our research team delivers a combination of commercial and collaborative services, working with industry and other partners to reduce the cost of energy spanning from offshore generation to grid integration.

Here are examples of some of the work that is already being carried out by our EIRH:

Case Study I: Reliability Evaluation of Offshore Wind Power Systems

For offshore wind to continue being the ultimate renewable energy success story, one of the main challenges that must be addressed is increased reliability. As offshore wind’s share of total power generation increases, an unforeseen loss of wind farm availability means not only isolated economic losses but can also pose a threat to the stability of the whole power system.

This project aims to tackle this reliability challenge by building models that ensure relevant operating and maintenance information for offshore wind power systems is produced. It is an attempt to link a time-step operational model of a state-of-the-art technology wind turbine system with strength-stress reliability models for its specific components.

An extensive time-series model of a wind turbine system combined with detailed reliability models based on physics of failure for its components is being built. Commonly, these have been treated as separate disciplines because of the complexity and computational effort that the whole system requires.

However, a combined operational and reliability model can provide wind turbine failure information that can ensure better scheduling of maintenance activity and optimal operation. As a result, it will reduce unnecessary interventions and turbine downtime, ultimately lowering the cost of electricity for offshore wind.

Case Study II: Evaluation of co-located wind and battery storage projects in the light of a battery sizing algorithm for maximum return of investment

Given the increasing integration of offshore wind power into the UK electricity grid, and the associated implications on the grid reliability and stability, the incorporation of battery energy storage systems (BESS) with renewable energy sources has been a topic of interest.

However, the high cost of the investment in BESS and a lack of technical maturity for offshore wind have slowed the pace for industry adoption of the co-location of offshore wind farms and BESS.

This research project looks to create a more robust business case for BESS by informing the industry of the economic benefits and challenges for the co-location of offshore wind farms and BESS in the UK. In addition, the research can help the offshore wind industry make suitable operational strategies for offshore wind farms in conjunction with BESS and determine the best size of the BESS for the maximum return of investment.

The research simulates the operation of an offshore wind farm in conjunction with BESS under different scenarios, where the primary role of BESS is to provide enhanced frequency response or dynamic firm frequency response driven by frequency deviations from the nominal 50Hz. Additional modelling of the BESS will determine how to manage the imbalance risk of offshore wind farms given a bidding strategy or sell the surplus energy from the frequency response service as wind energy via the wind farm meter.

Case Study III: Optimising Offshore Wind Farm Collector Networks

The electrical infrastructure of an offshore wind farm is one of the highest single costs of capital expenditure (CAPEX), ranging from 10-30%, making it a good candidate for optimisation and cost reduction research.

This research project looks into several stages of wind farm optimisation on electrical infrastructure including turbine placement, cable layout and selection and energy storage sizing and placement to develop a practical optimisation tool that will provide overall optimised wind farm designs.

At utility scale, small improvements in designs can lead to substantial increases in energy captured while simultaneously reducing investment costs and electrical losses. These improvements must also compromise the effect on operational activities and operational and maintenance expenditure (OPEX) such that the total lifetime cost is not increased. Considered holistically, wind farm designers and developers will be able to build cheaper and more efficient wind farms with a more competitive levelised cost of energy (LCOE).

Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub

Our Research Hubs are extremely effective in leveraging other research funding too.  This week, Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub announced funding awards of almost £1.2 million to UK universities to support ambitious research projects investigating all aspects of offshore renewable energy. The Universities of Strathclyde, Sheffield and Manchester received around £300k of this funding as part of our Research Hub programme, with approx. £200k of this allocated to the Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub (EIRH). The funding will support two research projects as part of the Hub:

  1. Impact of in-service oscillatory movement on insulation reliability of AC and DC cables serving offshore platforms (University of Manchester)
  2. Smart piezoelectric metamaterials for partial discharge monitoring (University of Strathclyde)

Offshore cable systems are a crucial part of a wind/wave/tidal farm, and the projects focus on two key cable challenges that face our sector.  The first project anticipates the increased usage of dynamic and Direct Current (DC) cables in our offshore networks. The other recognises that effective cable monitoring (and new and improved ways to do this) will remain an important part of operating and maintaining these offshore assets for some time to come.

 

The Catapult and its Research Hubs will continue broadening their capabilities to provide the strongest-possible offering to industry, with deep pools of resource, expertise and infrastructure available to pursue the electrical infrastructure solutions of the future. By being more responsive to industry’s demands, we can offer a more flexible response to their research requirements, enabling us to solve problems and future-proof the energy systems needed to facilitate the growth of low-carbon technologies.

Learn more about the specific research projects that are taking place under the Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub here. To find out more information on all of our research hub activity, visit the Research section of our website or please get in touch at anna.southall@ore.catapult.org.uk.

Anna Southall, Academic Engagement Plan Manager

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