Published 27 January 2020 Last updated 25 October 2022

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Offshore wind generation is subject to much harsher conditions than onshore wind, which puts a great deal of pressure on the reliability of critical infrastructure.

One key challenge for offshore wind generation is subsea cable failure, which can lead to a significant loss of power generation and huge unbudgeted repair costs. It has been noted that in offshore windfarms, cable failures account for 75%-80% of the total cost of insurance claims while the total cable expenditure only accounts for around 7%-9% of the capital costs for a new wind farm (Global Marine Energy). Despite this, there is little data available to inform operators how to avoid or mitigate cable failure costs.

The Opportunity

Synaptec has developed a game-changing technology that provides far earlier warning of impending cable failures, with permanent and synchronous monitoring of all cable joints and terminations.

According to DNV, 69% of all power cable failures occur in these locations, which are overlooked by traditional monitoring technologies. Synaptec’s sensing technology is completely passive, requiring no power, data networks or maintenance – they are small enough and long range enough to instrument any remote location to give live visibility of how electrical and mechanical stresses are affecting cables over time. This will be critical for the new generation of over 66 kV intra-array cabling, and floating offshore wind, ensuring high availability and buying time to respond to problems before thermal runaways cause total failure and outage.

The Solution

In 2019, Synaptec joined forces with ORE Catapult as part of the REACTION project to support the development of its passive sensor technology. The £234,000 project, part-funded by Innovate UK, examined the practical deployment, operation and data platform potential of the technology for offshore renewable generation.

Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine

As part of the REACTION project, Synaptec’s technology was installed at our 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in a year-long trial to establish the cost savings and long-term benefits of using the technology to monitor cable performance.

The testing allowed for the validation of the Synaptec monitoring platform and proved how easy and safe it was to retrofit, leading to further trials on larger systems and export cables with Vattenfall.

ORE Catapult’s Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine

European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre

Within the first year of the REACTION project, Synaptec was supported by ORE Catapult to secure a follow-on project at Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen.

Synaptec retrofitted sensors to the export cables at the offshore wind farm and is now live-streaming unprecedented new data on a fully operational wind farm, showing how cyclical loads, power quality, harmonics and termination temperature affect long term cable operation, and failure.

This new data stream can be used to safely optimise asset use with live and highly accurate Real-Time Thermal Ratings, but also to identify anomalous behaviour in similar assets over time. This is the key to optimised scheduled maintenance, condition-based repair and replace programs, and ultimately failure avoidance to maximise availability and safety while reducing the Levelised Cost Of Energy for offshore wind.

Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC)

Beyond ORE Catapult

Based on these demonstrations, Synaptec has now moved on to win the first major IAC monitoring programme with Dogger Bank A&B, combining its unique passive sensors with DTS, and in late 2022, retrofitting systems to Equinor’s Hywind floating demonstrator.

With direct and vital support of ORE Catapult, Synaptec has been able to raise new investment capital, double its team in Scotland, and double revenues in this timeframe, delivering cable monitoring systems in UK, the EU, Asia and North America.

Cable failures account for 75%-80% of the total cost of insurance claims for offshore wind farm operators.
Despite the huge cost of cable failures, total cable expenditure only accounts for around 7%-9% of the capital costs for a new wind farm (Global Marine Energy).
As a result of the REACTION project, Synaptec is predicting UK revenues of £10m by 2030 for subsea cable condition monitoring, along with the huge potential global market for this technology.

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