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£4 million robotics boost for offshore wind farms

08 February 2017

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University are part of a consortium delivering a human-robotics hybrid solution for the maintenance and operation of offshore wind farms.

Wind farm robotics

The team will receive a share of a £4 million grant to create remote inspection and repair technologies using robotics and autonomous systems to inspect the condition of subsea power cables, identify problems early and, ultimately, extend their lifespan. 

Commenting on the grant, Dr David Flynn, Director of the Smart Systems Group (SSG) at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The UK government has set ambitious decarbonisation targets, increasing the present 5GW generated by offshore wind farms to 40GW by 2050. The costs of achieving these targets has, until now, focused on the capital outlay for wind turbines, but budgets have largely ignored the operation and maintenance of wind farm assets including subsea cabling. 

“Currently 70 percent of cable failure modes cannot be monitored in-situ, inhibiting accurate health monitoring. This exciting and highly interdisciplinary project builds on our globally recognised expertise in Embedded Intelligence and Robotics and Autonomous Systems. 

“We aim to provide the UK with a competitive advantage within the highly lucrative offshore energy market. Our hybrid, human-robotics, technology will seek to protect those most vulnerable to increases in the cost of energy by reducing the costs faced by both tax and bill payers.

“Heriot-Watt is a global leader in creating interdisciplinary solutions to real-world challenges. By integrating technologies, such as autonomous underwater vehicles and advanced sonar technology, we will gain a new insight to the condition of these subsea assets. 

“The UK is leading the world in the development of remote inspection technologies, which also have significant applications in the global oil and gas decommissioning market. As the UK works towards ambitious decarbonisation targets, we expect this industry to be worth more than £2 billion per year by 2020.”

The Heriot-Watt team includes Dr David Flynn, Dr Keith Brown and Professor David Lane.  The Heriot-Watt team involves collaboration between colleagues from the university’s Ocean Systems Laboratory and the Smart Systems Group. 

The consortium (The Holistic Operation and Maintenance for Energy from Offshore Wind Farms or HOME-Offshore) that will receive the grant brings together internationally recognised experts from the following universities: Manchester (project Iead), Warwick, Cranfield, Durham and Heriot-Watt University. 

The £4 million research grant includes a £1 million industry contribution from DONG, Siemens Wind, GE Energy Solutions, Scottish Power Energy Networks, Offshore renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, Hydrasun, Nova Innovation, British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC), JDR Cables and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). £3 million has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

2017 marks the launch of Heriot-Watt University’s Year of Robotics, which will showcase its contribution to the development of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) for future generations. The university has a calendar of events planned which will span schools, the public, academia, industry collaborators, funders and policy makers. 

For more information, please visit: https://www.hw.ac.uk/schools/mathematical-computer-sciences/heriot-watt-university-year-of-robotics.htm


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