ScottishPower Renewables has teamed up with Cambridge-based Aveillant, part of the Thales Group, to test a pioneering new radar system that aims to safeguard the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry.
Rapid growth in offshore wind technology means that much larger and more powerful wind turbines are set to be installed in the waters around the UK in the coming years.
Now with next-generation projects considering wind turbines with tip heights upwards of 250 m it has been recognised that turbines of this size could interfere with Ministry of Defence radar coverage and civilian aviation radar.
Larger blades and taller structures can cause ‘clutter’ and ‘shadowing’ with existing radar technology and projects could be at risk of objections from the Ministry of Defence as a result.
Currently ‘rotating radar’ is the predominant technology used in the UK today. This technology is unable to easily distinguish between moving turbine blades and other objects such as drones and aircraft. Rotating radars lose sight of the ‘target’ on each rotation and have to reacquire the target each time.
ScottishPower Renewables has been working with Aveillant to find a solution that will satisfy Ministry of Defence concerns, and an agreement was signed on 18 July at the Farnborough Air Show to develop a pioneering new system.
Aveillant’s holographic radar is a non-rotating, two-dimensional ‘staring’ array which produces a full three-dimensional picture of the covered volume of airspace. The system uses powerful algorithms to recognise what it sees (wind turbines, aircraft and, in other applications, drones) and provides a ‘clutter-free’ picture to the radar operator.
The key to the holographic radar is that it spends 100% ‘time on target’ – continuously and simultaneously monitoring all the airspace it can see.
It is proposed that an extended range Aveillant radar will be tested in Northamptonshire in the next nine months, and the results will be shared with the Ministry of Defence. Further tests on the east coast of England will be planned soon after.
If successful, the technology could be applied to future offshore wind projects in the UK, with global export opportunities to other countries around the world with offshore wind ambitions.
The agreement with Aveillant will see the creation of a number of new engineering jobs in Cambridge.
ScottishPower Renewables managing director Jonathan Cole said, “Offshore wind has grown so quickly, and technology has advanced so far, that we are encountering issues now that were not anticipated to be a problem for many years.
“It is very important that we work closely with the Ministry of Defence and other aviation bodies to ensure that the UK’s global lead in the offshore wind industry is maintained, and the government’s carbon reduction plans can be achieved.
“The Aveillant technology is unique, and we are confident that the trial will lead to a system that satisfies the Ministry of Defence’s concerns. Our industry has continually shown it is capable of innovating to meet the challenges we have been set, and radar is the next big issue that we need to address.”
Aveillant chief executive Dr Dominic Walker said, “Holographic radar technology provides a new solution to a very important problem and could ultimately have a direct impact on the amount of offshore wind power produced in the UK. It is great to see a real commitment to innovation from leaders in the industry such as ScottishPower Renewables. We’re delighted to be working on this project.”