A company that specializes in photonic sensing systems has partnered with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult to reduce the high cost of subsea cable failures and instrumentation systems required to monitor them.
Synaptec’s Refase technology will be installed at ORE Catapult’s 7 MW Levenmouth demonstration turbine in Fife in a year-long trial to establish the cost savings and long-term benefits of using distributed, passive sensors to monitor cable performance.
Refase was designed to reduce significantly the outage and repair costs caused by subsea power cable faults. By sending and reflecting light along optical fibres in subsea power cables, Refase collates electrical performance measurements.
The new partnership is a continuation of a relationship between ORE Catapult and Synaptec. The ORE Catapult’s support was a significant factor in the recent announcement of a £2.9M investment in Synaptec, which included backing from Williams Advanced Engineering.
Subsea cable failures and their resulting outages continue to be a priority area for improvement for the industry, although array cable faults are less well understood than export cable failures.
Based on ORE Catapult published data for 2018, recorded cable failures in UK projects have led to lost generation equating to almost £250M of lost revenue. Array cable faults represent 12% of recorded cable failures, with the potential loss of revenue up to £70,000 per day due to loss of generation and repair activities.
The joint project aims to reduce those costs significantly by automating the response to cable faults and developing long-term prognostics capabilities to improve operations and maintenance cost, through power quality and dynamic line rating data streamed from up to 50 locations per system.
Both organizations hope the installation will open the door to a greater understanding of all power cable faults and demonstrate the potential of Synaptec’s technology platform as a long-term automated asset management system, as well as an improved protection system, that will deliver millions of pounds in capital and operational cost savings for the offshore wind industry.
Synaptec head of business development Saul Matthews said, “You can’t manage if you can’t measure, so affordable visibility and control of remote offshore assets is urgently needed to drive down cost and make clean energy more affordable.
“Our work with ORE Catapult at Levenmouth will show that transmission-grade distributed sensor systems like this are the best way to address the industry’s single largest operating cost – cable failures.”
ORE Catapult project manager Audrey Bowie said, “As the UK’s offshore wind installed capacity continues to grow, towards at least 30 GW by 2030 and potentially 75 GW by 2050, so does the need for developing reliable, high-capacity transmission cable technologies.
Subsea power cable failure is a real issue for offshore wind operators, making up at least 75% of the total cost of offshore wind insurance claims. The Catapult is committed to working with companies like Synaptec to develop and implement new technologies and processes aimed at reducing cable failures, and, through facilities such as our Levenmouth Turbine, provide a platform for the demonstration and validation of these technologies.”
In May 2019, Synaptec confirmed that it had secured second-round funding led by Foresight and Williams Advanced Engineering through the Foresight Williams Technology EIS fund – a collaboration between Williams Advanced Engineering and Foresight Group.
The investment was secured after two years of consecutive growth and contracts that demonstrated how Synaptec’s distributed sensing technology can provide visibility, enhance control functions and reduce cost for power utilities and renewable energy generators globally.
In addition to additional support from the original trio of investors – the Scottish Investment Bank, the University of Strathclyde and Equity Gap – Synaptec will also benefit from the combined expertise of new investors Williams Advanced Engineering and Foresight, who recognised the potential of the technology.
The funding will be used to scale-up production, grow international sales and develop Synaptec’s growing data analytics capability.