(L-R) Tony Lyon, Xceco; Jo Goubert, Accelleran; Peter Smith, ABP; Ben George, ORE Catapult; Halina Davies, Greater Lincolnshire LEP; Simon Hart, Innovate UK; Donal O’Sullivan, Boldyn Networks; James Thomas, Jet Connectivity with an Xocean autonomous, solar powered vessel to help with subsurface and turbine inspections.

Unique offshore wind ‘living lab’ in Grimsby is switched on to launch new digital future

Published 12 October 2023

The 5G PORTAL (Ports and Offshore Renewable Technology Accelerator Lincolnshire) – an advanced 5G equipped ‘living lab’ – covering the port of Grimsby and the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farm was officially switched on today (Thursday) at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Operations and Maintenance Centre of Excellence.

The £2.8m project, funded by Innovate UK and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, will accelerate development of a new generation of digital technologies essential to the huge expansion of offshore wind farms, required to meet the UK target to deploy 50GW of offshore wind by 2030. The ‘living lab’ will allow technology providers to develop, test and demonstrate their equipment in real world conditions, with access to reliable, high-speed communications, and aims to attract users from across the global offshore wind sector.

Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart, said: “As a country, we need to embrace new ideas and technologies to make sure the global boom in offshore wind continues.

“The high-speed communications infrastructure will provide the perfect environment to test and develop the next generation of digital technologies – making our wind farms smarter, safer and greener.

“This will also level up the country by sustaining 200 skilled jobs, supporting more than 120 businesses and creating 20 new enterprises. Thanks to the 5G Portal, Grimsby is becoming world famous as the driving force behind the digital revolution in offshore wind.”

The 5G PORTAL is delivered by a consortium led by ORE Catapult, bringing together the expertise of Microsoft, XceCo, Associated British Ports (ABP), Accelleran, JET Connectivity, Boldyn Networks and Satellite Applications Catapult.

Andrew Macdonald, Director of Offshore Wind Development and Operations at ORE Catapult, said: “We are delighted the 5G PORTAL has been switched on – opening the door to an exciting new future for offshore renewable energy in the Humber with our expert partners.

“It will provide a real-world test and demonstration zone for robotics, AI, remote sensors, wearable technology, zero emission vessels, smart ports – driving forward the digital evolution of our next generation wind farms. Innovators can make the most of this unique resource as they bring new products and services to market, both in the UK and across the world. We believe it will attract investment from the global offshore wind market that will be felt regionally and nationally as offshore wind rapidly expands and opens up significant export opportunities.”

To create the 5G PORTAL, two 5G technology development and demonstration zones linked by a fibre network were created – one end at Grimsby Port and the other within the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farm. Fifteen 5G radio transmitters are placed across five sites (including four wind turbines and a radio mast in the port), working in conjunction with a solar powered 5G buoy developed by JET Connectivity, together providing an extended private 5G network over a 45km2 area.

Uniquely, the 5G PORTAL is integrated into both an operational port and operational offshore wind farm, and applications to use it are welcomed.

Demonstrators at the 5G PORTAL launch included:

  • ABP and HeroTech8 – autonomously controlled drones designed to conduct inspections offshore, provided video, sensor capture and data transmission before returning to base.
  • Microsoft – a live feed from the port mast relayed data back to base where it was shown through HoloLens interactive software as interactive augmented reality. This will remotely assist and direct field technicians with instructions overlaid on their visors.
  • ABP and BT – video monitoring and image processing with AI – used to monitor lock gate movements and vessel conditions with image recognition software, to determine changes or damage to vessels.
  • Xocean – an autonomous, solar powered 5m vessel to help with subsurface and asset inspections.
  • JET Connectivity – their data dashboard showed environmental, weather, and 5G service data from the 5G buoy.

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