An ever growing range of technology is being applied to monitor offshore windfarms and the cables that bring power from windfarms ashore, but how do we ensure we make the best possible use of data?
New statistical techniques and algorithms from the digital sector are being applied to help improve decision making during operations and at a strategic level, but as the amount of data obtained from offshore windfarms grow, so does the need for quicker, better decision-making based on that data.
We need to get value from this growing data stream, but how can we harness the data that matters and enable better decisions that are more easily taken, by the right people at the right time?
Those were some of the questions posed by Lloyd’s Register vice president survey and geoengineering Richard Orren and technology innovation leader Dr Rebecca Sykes at a recent conference.
“How can we find the right nuggets of data, in the vast number of terabytes available, to enable these decisions?” they asked. How can we ensure that early phase survey data is useable throughout the lifetime of an asset and not just stuck on a shelf?
Lloyd’s Register’s solution is IRIS, a project support and data management web application enabling offshore project teams to make more effective decisions through better access to information.
The modular platform is sold as a subscription-based turnkey solution and is, said Lloyd’s Register’s experts, “ideally suited to the offshore energy and marine sectors as it brings ‘hard to access’ offshore data into a single interface.”
IRIS provides access to dynamic spatial and temporal marine data and documentation, augmented by graphical dashboards for sensor and performance tracking. It incorporates web mapping, marine co-ordination and vessel tracking, HSEQ and performance monitoring and what they described as ‘spatial data visualisation.’
IRIS can help with a huge range of operations, including operations and maintenance, vessel planning optimisation and cable installation. One of the early users of IRIS, DeepOcean, described it as “a truly innovative capability and cost-effective service providing critical operational visibility.”
Looking ahead, Lloyd’s Register is investigating other ways to help clients understand the data they have and unlock its value. These include asset ‘digital twins’ that can be used to simulate the normal functioning of an asset.
A digital twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets (the physical twin), processes and systems that can be used for a wide range of purposes. The digital representation provides both the elements and the dynamics of how an internet of things device operates throughout its lifecycle.
According to Lloyd’s Register, in the offshore wind industry, potential applications of digital twins include simulating the heating cycle of a gearbox in an offshore wind turbine.
“A digital twin can precisely simulate the behaviour of an asset in a wide range of operational situations and environments,” they explained. “The digital twin takes (multiple) sensor measurements as input and simulates the expected behaviour in terms of an expected, dependent sensor reading. For a wind turbine we would use wind speed, shaft RPM and torque to predict the temperature of the gearbox.
“With a dataset or a collection of datasets that contain multiple faults for several different similar assets, it is possible to connect breakdowns with a mismatch between asset and digital twin. This allows us to move away from time-based remaining life to condition-based remaining life.
“Looking at the distribution of breakdowns, a distribution can be calculated that allows the calculation of an average asset condition at breakdown. The breakdown data can be used to calculate a statistical model that describes breakdown-probability with respect to condition time. In this way, the digital twin can be used to simulate the normal functioning of an asset.
“Historical data is used to train a machine learning model/artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate the complex physical behaviour of the asset without requiring actual physical models and a data-driven digital twin can be combined with available physical models to improve their respective capabilities.”
Using a system such as IRIS, they suggested, all project stakeholders can monitor relevant aspects and optimise operations in real-time. Apps can be used to provide dedicated data streams and analytics and data can be held for the lifetime of a project, accessed via a standard interface providing additional analytics, comparisons with sister projects, and lessons learned.
Helping to provide an ever-growing stream of data is a new generation of sensors and algorithms, among them highly precise sensors being developed by Morphosense, a start-up based in Grenoble in France that recently raised €2M (US$2.3M) from Sofimac Innovation, Bouygues Construction and Crédit Agricole Alpes Développement.
Founded in 2016, Morphosense has developed a sensing technology it believes is unique for the real-time surveillance of the structural integrity of a range of structures, including floating offshore windfarms.
The product the company has developed, Neuron, is based on a system of high-precision sensors associated with patented algorithms which makes it possible to measure the static and dynamic behaviour of structures and to carry out predictive maintenance. Neuron measures 3D deformations and vibration in three axes.
Using the funds it has raised, Morphosense hopes to accelerate commercial development of the technology in two key markets, offshore and civil engineering, secure ISO 9001 and ATEX certification, and continue to develop predictive maintenance software that uses AI and machine learning.
Monitoring subsea cables
Above-water assets are not the only ones that need to be monitored on an offshore windfarm. Subsea cables also need to be monitored, for which Synaptec, an innovative company based in Glasgow with roots in the University of Strathclyde’s Institute for Energy and Environment, has developed a potential solution.
The first product based on the technology the company developed is ‘Refase.’ It was designed to reduce significantly the outage and repair costs caused by subsea power cable faults. By sending and reflecting light along optical fibres available inside subsea power cables, Refase collates electrical performance measurements from up to 50 different locations.
Refase recognises faults in a cable and within milliseconds permits unaffected cables and turbines to return to production, much faster than humans or even circuit breakers respond to the fault. The result, the company claims, is significantly reduced O&M response times, repair costs, asset damage and income loss.
Synaptec managing director Philip Orr said, “Until now, no-one has been able to use optical fibre for real-time monitoring and control of offshore wind power assets, which by their nature are remote and inaccessible.
Synaptec’s objective with Refase is to reduce operating costs in three key ways when offshore electrical faults happen. Firstly, by eliminating human response costs, the cost of engineers, crew transfer vessels and waiting for a weather window to reach the offshore substation to undertake manual fault location. Second, by minimising loss of income, returning healthy cables and turbines to generation in milliseconds instead of days. And finally, by avoiding the damage from repeat exposure to faults caused by manual fault location, the production lifespan of turbines is extended.
“We call it our ‘free-from’ approach,” said Mr Orr. We are free from live copper wiring, big housings, power supplies, the requirement for GPS satellite access or data networks, and it even reduces the need for human intervention.
“Eventually, we hope to see Refase planned into the architecture of new offshore wind projects, but also emerging technologies like floating wind, tidal and wave power, which are even more vulnerable to dynamic cable failure.”