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Why investing in our wet-ageing facilities is set to power up renewables’ cabling

Published 22 March 2024

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth is well-known for its state-of-the-art facilities, equipped as they are to deliver industry-leading test and validation services, supporting innovation across the sector, and driving down the cost of offshore renewable energy.

Alongside full-scale testing of wind turbine blades and power trains, elsewhere on the Blyth site at the Charles Parsons Technology Centre, colleagues also deliver world leading support for the development of high voltage (HV) systems.

The team specialises in supporting the development of HV submarine cable systems (with XLPE and insulation) and pride themselves on providing an end-to-end service that can handle all the testing required by the qualification programme under one roof; including sample build, mechanical preconditioning, electrical type test, water penetration testing, non-electrical (materials) type test, fatigue testing, dismantling, and visual inspection.

Investments in wet age facilities at Blyth include:

Following a significant investment in wet age testing in the laboratory, completion of the works recently means that the team here are readying themselves to offer the industry increased capability and exciting new testing opportunities.

The investment has seen the construction of a new 320 m2 laboratory facility, the installation of new tanks and a dedicated transformer specifically for wet age testing. The new extension to the Charles Parsons Technology Centre allows for increased capacity to perform 2-year wet ageing testing for multiple projects and clients at one time. Creating a dedicated space for these activities also frees up precious floorspace elsewhere in the lab which along with a new storage facility, allows the team to streamline a number of operations and offer clients a wider selection of solutions.

Why we are investing in current & future market trends

Cable manufacturing clients serving the renewables sector have been crying out for truly representative testing in a safe environment, with twin benefits of de-risking new technology prior to offshore deployment whilst also giving insurers a higher level of confidence.

By investing in current and future market trends, our HV laboratory has ensured that it can now offer a full service to clients from electrical, mechanical and full forensic investigation whilst also having the foresight to have higher voltage capability for future generation cables.

Given that cables typically make up 10% of overall wind farm deployment costs and yet account for over 70% of insurance claims, the work we are carrying out will prove crucial to current and future renewable projects.

Wet ageing within a safe and controlled environment enables us to provide clients with critical insight into the effects of salt-water exposure into their insulation systems which, if left untested, could lead to critical failures.

Other investments at ORE Catapult

This investment into wet ageing was not only key from a client perspective due to the demand for representative testing and increased volume, but also from a company perspective in terms of our own growth strategy and innovation. Our expansion of cable related testing services also includes development of a new laboratory at our new Floating Wind Innovation Centre (FLOWIC) in Aberdeen where an enhanced full scale cable system fatigue test rig is now being commissioned.

We are also leading investigations into more representative testing on next generation cables in collaboration with the Carbon Trust to inform improved testing standards.

The wide variety of tests provided by the team here at ORE Catapult are designed to provide clients with everything they require in terms of validating submarine cable systems, and it is that breadth of testing allied to the expertise of the team, that makes clients want to work with us again and again. The new wet ageing facilities will only increase those demands for our services, a challenge we can’t wait to take on.