As the world’s energy sources quickly shift towards renewables, wind farms are becoming a leading source of sustainable power. With many of these wind farms being located miles off shore, engineers depend on subsea cables to move power to and from the farms. When dealing with miles of cables, length, wear and tear, and improper usage all propose challenges. Those reasons, coupled with the sheer pressure from the vast amounts of water, many things are bound to go wrong during the offshore engineering process of wind farms.
The facts about subsea cables:
- According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, subsea cables have to withstand 14.5 psi per every 10.05 meters into the ocean they are lowered.
- Subsea cables are susceptible to accidental breakage by natural disasters, anchor damage, soil/erosion related damage, and damage from installation. Such mishaps snap cables about 100 times a year.
- There are no agreed upon international or national standards for installing subsea cables.
Why does do all these issues matter? Subsea cable damage can put an entire wind farm out of service for months and can lead to damage to turbine equipment. A study done by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on Offshore Electrical Cable Burial for Wind Farms estimates that 70% of insurance claims for offshore wind farms come from some kind of damage or breakage to the subsea cables.
As the industry grows, so do the risks associated with these wind farms failing. Europe and Asia lead in wind energy production globally – Denmark itself uses wind power for almost 40% of Danish domestic electricity. The United States continues to grow in the market as well, with the U.S. Department of Energy reporting that by 2030, wind power could supply 20% of all U.S. electricity. This rapid growth emphasizes the need for more dependable offshore engineering solutions.
PMI has years of experience in the offshore industries and continues to develop innovative hardware solutions for subsea cables. Let us help you tackle your offshore project needs.
Read more about studies done by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement regarding Offshore Electrical Cable Burial for Wind Farms.
While it appears as thought the U.S. is falling far behind Europe in the Offshore Wind and Wave Energy department, you really need to understand the lay of the land – literally.
The U.S. coastline, with a relatively small continental shelf, is not quite as amenable as Europe’s North Sea for offshore wave and wind. Conventional offshore wind turbines are limited to a depth of around 50 meters. In these depths, foundations are typically open truss frame structures that are anchored to the seabed. They are expensive to build and aimed at supporting extremely large turbines. The larger the turbine, the more energy it produces, keeping the overall cost per kilowatt-hour down.
But as the water depth increases, foundation costs increases. So along the U.S. coast, floating structures similar to the ones deep-water oil and gas industry use are nearly the only option.
The U.S. would benefit from not only looking at floating offshore wind but also wave energy, both of which are economically equal in extracting energy from the marine environment.
But what is most important is that these types of projects get in the water soon, generate interest and start working towards lowering costs. We need to work to achieve lower costs through simplicity, reliability and economies of scale.
Today it appears that we are likely only to employ only a tiny fraction of this available resource and offset the needs within the U.S. The problem we truly face is not obtaining the resource; it is the practical deployment and the economical conversion of it into electricity.
We need to look at the most viable methods of capture it at the lowest cost.
Our years of experience in the offshore oil and gas industry will benefit offshore renewable energy companies that are navigating along the U.S. shoreline.
Want to know more? Read Ocean/Tidal/Stream Power: Wave Power’s Path to Commercial Acceptance – A Comparison with Deepwater Wind by Timothy R. Mundon.
The Dutch Government will soon be inviting offshore wind power companies to bid on building two wind farms off the Dutch coast.
Companies bidding the lowest price will be awarded a 30-year permit to build and operate the relevant wind farm.
So it’s not a surprise to tell you that everyone will be extremely focused on cost control measures.
From our experience, it will be important for those involved to understand how proven subsea cable equipment can reduce the overall cost over time. And throwing the cheapest solution out to grab a bid could be a very costly problem in the future.
While our high-end, custom engineered subsea cable hardware may not be the cheapest on the market, our engineering team understands there are other ways to save costs. Our experience led us to create “No Tools Required” custom cable systems, and our in-depth hydrodynamic efficiency studies are helping other companies innovate new systems on existing subsea cable devices and analyze cost saving opportunities.
According to the Government, critical to the overall plan for The Netherlands is that the energy produced from renewable sources is cost-competitive. In meeting its future energy demand, the country aims to keep costs under control.
For most wind projects, the pre-construction and even pre-bid costs are high for individual companies. Costs must be made for site investigations, for environmental impact assessments, and so on. This increases risks for bidders, and by consequence the overall costs for offshore wind development. To address this, the Dutch government has now decided to take over the responsibility for many of these pre-development issues. Read more…
As our underwater cable products and services continue to serve customers worldwide, we are excited to read about how our global community is working together to share best practices and collaborate on operational solutions within the Welsh marine energy sector.
Tapping companies from around the world with expertise in both the marine and energy industries will certainly make Wales a world-leader in the marine energy market and create hundreds of jobs in areas like manufacturing, offshore operations and new project development.
The profile of Wales as a potential location for marine energy projects has increased dramatically over the past 12 months, demonstrated clearly by the growing number of developers from across the globe who are showing an active interest in developing projects in Welsh waters.
Attracted initially by Wales’ excellent wave and tidal stream resource, the announcement of two marine energy Demonstration Zones and the allocation of €100.4 million of EU Structural Funds prioritized by the Welsh Government for marine energy have served to cement Wales in the minds of developers as one of the preferred locations for marine energy development on a worldwide scale.
Read more about our thoughts on renewable energy
Read more about the Welsh Marine Energy Sector.
As engineers, we naturally love to innovate. That’s what is so exciting about what the future holds for us in alternative energy. While our subsea hardware has been proven for over 40 years, we are also equally proven in custom-engineering parts for unique cable innovations and ready to tackle what the future has in store for us.
Turbines designed in the UK aim to harness tidal energy to produce cheaper electricity − without endangering marine life.
Kepler Energy, whose technology is being developed by Oxford University’s department of engineering science, says the turbines will in time produce electricity more cheaply than off-shore wind farms.
It hopes to install its new design in what is called a tidal energy fence, one kilometre long, in the Bristol Channel. Read more…