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. With the increase in the number of offshore wind farms being built across the UK and throughout Europe, there is now more subsea cable in the water than ever, and this growth is expected to continue over the next decade.
One key challenge for offshore wind generation is subsea cable failure, which can lead to a significant loss of power generation and a huge increase in repair costs. Subsea cable incidents account for between 70 – 80% of the total cost of offshore wind farm insurance losses but only account for around 10% of the overall cost of a new wind farm project.
Synaptec is on a mission to reduce the downtime and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs associated with electrical and mechanical faults. It has developed a game-changing passive sensing technology that utilises existing optical fibre to measure electrical and mechanical parameters at the speed of light from any remote offshore location.
Synaptec’s RefaseTM technology measures up to eight separate power cables per 100km of optical fibre, simultaneously providing both protection and live condition monitoring analytics for the first time at an unprecedented range. Since Synaptec’s sensors are entirely passive, the cost, size and weight of instrumentation is substantially reduced by eliminating the need for power supplies, transformers, copper wiring, data networks or GPS clock access at every location.
This technology aims to reduce the size and capital cost of instrumentation systems by 50% and then reduce operational costs in two different ways. Firstly, it automates the response to cable faults, reducing outage times and operational cost by identifying and isolating faulty cables while allowing others in the array to stay in production. Secondly, streaming and synchronising data from these remote passive sensor networks can be used to improve real-time control and provide predictive maintenance insights for longer term asset management. This includes dynamic line rating, thermal alarms, power quality and power flow analytics for every turbine and every cable in an array. The aim of this is to improve operations and maintenance efficiency, predict faults and extend operational life of high voltage (HV) assets offshore.
Synaptec has joined forces with ORE Catapult as part of the REACTION project to support the development of RefaseTM. The £234,000 project, which is 78% funded by Innovate UK, will examine the practical deployment, operation and data platform potential of the technology for offshore renewable generation. Ultimately, the REACTION project will produce a commercial product demonstrator for array cable protection, fault identification and cable failure prognostics that will be deployed on our 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine.
Synaptec’s technology has been installed at ORE Catapult’s demonstration turbine in Fife in a year-long trial to establish the cost savings and long-term benefits of using the technology to monitor cable performance. The testing will allow for validation of the RefaseTM technology in a more realistic environment. ORE Catapult will work with Synaptec to examine the wealth of data that will be measured and will leverage its expertise and contacts in the renewable energy sector to speed up the commercialisation process of the technology.
Synaptec’s RefaseTM technology aims to reduce the response time for array cable fault location from four days to milliseconds to save at least £70,000 of lost income per day per string, or £7m over the 25-year production life of a 1GW array.
Upon completion of the REACTION project, Synaptec aims to show how O&M costs might be further reduced by the predictive maintenance of cables and HV assets. If only 10% of non-inherent cable faults (those which are caused only after installation) were prevented over the same lifetime, savings would reach £600m, further driving down the costs of offshore wind and ultimately consumer energy bills.
The technology developed in REACTION will considerably enhance fault response to reduce downtime, but this automation will also reduce human intervention and so health and safety risk. The technology will also require development and manufacturing of the system locally, which could lead to the creation of more than 20 new jobs between 2020 and 2026 as the technology is rolled-out.