ORCHIDS project to tackle ocean energy infrastructure integrity

Armoured subsea cables at EMEC (Photo: EMEC)
Armoured subsea cables at EMEC (Photo: EMEC)

Fraunhofer UK, part of Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation, has joined forces with Synaptec and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to develop an innovative solution to address cable and electrical infrastructure integrity within the marine renewable energy industry.

Funded by the UK Government’s business innovation experts InnovateUK, the ORCHIDS (Offshore Renewable energy Cable Health monitoring using Integrated Distributed Sensor systems) project is looking to enhance subsea cable monitoring capabilities by combining emerging optical sensing techniques to enable a smart cable management system that can be utilised during manufacture, transport, installation, through to end of life.

The feasibility study will include a market assessment looking at the commercial case for the technology alongside a technical review of different distributed fibre sensing techniques that can operate alongside Synaptec’s offering, EMEC’s press release reads.

David Hytch, Offshore Renewables Specialist at InnovateUK, said: “Subsea cable health is a particular challenge for marine energy and offshore renewables due to the hostile environment in which they are placed and have to operate. Failure of cables can also lead to costly losses of revenue and hefty repair bills. As business focused innovation experts, Innovate UK recognised the potential benefits of the ORCHIDS project to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy and improve the use of these technologies for sustainable, secure and competitive power generation in the future.”

Henry Bookey, Senior Researcher at Fraunhofer UK said: “The use of optical fibres found within modern power cables as a cable condition monitor combined with innovative current and voltage sensors is an attractive prospect for offshore infrastructure monitoring.”

Philip Orr, Managing Director at Synaptec, added that making full use of optical fibres that are now intrinsic to power transmission lines and cables would lead to improved instrumentation coverage in a cost-effective way, and to enabling a smarter, more adaptive electricity network.