With the potential to unlock wind resource in deep-water sites, create up to 17,000 jobs, and add over £33bn to the economy by 2050, floating wind has a vital role to play in the UK’s clean growth future.
As a relatively nascent technology, there are still many challenges to be overcome before floating wind can be deployed in full-scale commercial arrays. One of the biggest involves the cables used to bring the energy generated back to land: exposed to greater forces by marine currents and waves than their bottom-fixed counterparts, the next generation of dynamic cables will have to be robust enough to survive up to 25 years of operation in the field.
Key to improving the performance and reliability of subsea cables is representative testing. With cable-related failures accounting for up to 80% of offshore wind insurance claims, successful testing can give cable manufacturers, and the developers who deploy them on their projects, confidence that they can perform throughout their service life.
The Catapult contracted north-east engineering firm Osbit to design and build its 15-tonne Dynamic Cable Test Rig for floating wind and tidal array cables. The rig is also capable of carrying out operational research and acting as a representative test bed for all aspects of subsea cable development.
“The supply chain is readying itself to ensure that the products that are supplied into these future floating wind developments are robust in design and construction and can withstand the operational stresses they will see over their lifetime,” says Alex Neumann, ORE Catapult’s Head of High Voltage.
“This rig allows us to bring in mechanical testing to these components, which is required under conformance and validation testing for dynamic operation in offshore wind farms. It allows us to energise the cable while applying mechanical forces, and it can be submerged during operation for wet testing – in the Catapult’s dock facilities, or in a tank.”
Osbit’s location and strong track record of delivery proved key to the project. “A lot of the work we do at the Catapult involves specialist providers of equipment and services,” says Alex. “We can’t do everything ourselves. To have a strong, reliable and quality supply chain that we can call upon – and to have the flexibility of being located close by – is very important to us.”
“Collaborative efforts like this are important to Osbit, the Catapult, and the local supply chain,” says Ross Lamonby, a Design Engineer with Osbit. “All of the contractors involved in the projects – mechanical, electrical and hydraulic – come from the north-east of England. It all helps to build a strong knowledge base in the sector, and it means that the Catapult has reliable partners to support its activities.”
Even more important is the part the rig will play in developing the floating offshore wind components that will help the UK achieve its clean growth and carbon reduction targets. The Catapult’s work with Osbit is a north-east success story with national impact.