New deal signed for offshore wind innovators to continue driving forward solutions in real-world conditions

New deal signed for offshore wind innovators to continue driving forward solutions in real-world conditions

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and Vattenfall have signed a three-year extension on their testing and demonstration collaboration at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm.

The partnership at the 96.8MW offshore wind test and demonstration facility first began in 2019. Since then, technologies which have the potential to address operation and maintenance challenges currently facing offshore wind farms have been tested at the site, such as blade repair, leading edge erosion, robotics, remote cable monitoring and remote and autonomous inspection. Now, more companies ready to test their technologies offshore will be supported by ORE Catapult and Vattenfall at the 11-turbine wind farm, 2.5km off the Aberdeen coast, until the end of 2026.

Hugh Riddell, Regional Partnership Manager at ORE Catapult, said: “Extending our collaboration with Vattenfall gives innovative UK companies a unique opportunity to deploy, test and demonstrate their technology in a real-world environment at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm.

“The UK is internationally recognised for technological innovation, but there is a need to  fast track the commercialisation of these technologies and boost supply chain opportunities in the years to come. De-risking their innovations on an operating offshore wind farm in the north east of Scotland, which is already home to so many innovative engineering companies, will help to accelerate routes to market, increase confidence for potential customers, and further support the growth of offshore wind as part of the race to Net Zero.”

Lisa Christie, UK Country Manager at Vattenfall said: “As a leading developer of offshore wind, the collaboration between Vattenfall and ORE Catapult at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm is absolutely vital. We’re supporting technologies needed to promote a competitive offshore wind industry, strengthen the supply chain, and bring economic benefits to the UK

“What we offer companies is a world class testing and demonstration facility. Technologies must meet the highest requirements – delivering increased safety in offshore wind operations, minimising impact on the environment, and reducing costs of renewable energy.

“We look forward to continued working with ORE Catapult to provide a test bed for exciting innovations that address the challenges facing offshore wind as we push toward net zero.”

Geo-data specialist Fugro completed the world’s first fully remote ROV inspection of an offshore wind farm at the Aberdeen site last year. Their uncrewed surface vessel (USV), Blue Essence® and electric remotely operated vehicle (eROV), Blue Volta® delivered an in-depth inspection, with the crew safely onshore. Real-time data was streamed via high band width VSAT connection to Fugro’s remote operations centre (ROC) in Aberdeen, improving safety and reducing carbon emissions by 95%. Since then, Fugro have expanded their USV fleet in Europe, completing multiple pipeline inspections and further windfarm asset integrity surveys.

Safety at sea pioneers Zelim tested their Swift Rescue Conveyor System which demonstrated it was 20 times faster at recovering people overboard offshore than any conventional systems, and Pegasus Welfare Solutions (PWS) constructed the world’s first in-turbine toilets that have been installed into all the wind farm’s turbines. PWS was acquired by OEG Offshore in 2021.

Faye McFarlane, Business Development Manager for Portable Welfare at OEG Renewables, said: “We are extremely proud to have installed the world’s first in tower toilets on each turbine at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm. The welfare units were transferred via crew transfer vessel (CTV) to the turbine where they were then lifted and put into position by the on-site technicians. Installing these units has been an important step forward for acknowledging the importance of welfare and safety of personnel offshore.

“Having the option to use a toilet inside the turbine reduces the number of vessel transfers for comfort breaks which, in turn, also increases productivity as less time is wasted with multiple transfers. By allowing for personal privacy these in tower toilets help to increase diversity in offshore wind.”

Edinburgh based company, Cyberhawk conducted an automated drone blade inspection at the offshore wind farm.

Euan Baird, Utilities and Renewables Lead at Cyberhawk, said: Having a test site for companies to validate their technology in a real-life environment is vital for developing solutions supporting the journey towards net zero. ORE Catapult and Vattenfall coordinated a demonstration for Cyberhawk to fly Sulzer Schmid’s cutting-edge drone-based blade inspection technology at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm. While we knew the technology was effective onshore, there are so many new variables and challenges in the offshore environment from the size of the turbines to the movement of the vessel, which are impossible to replicate in onshore testing.

“For Cyberhawk, having the facilities to get hands-on with the technology and validate its performance offshore was extremely valuable. Safety is our priority and having used the autonomous technology at Aberdeen, seeing it perform and validating the results, gave us the confidence we need to take it to market and offer these inspections to our customers. Together, Sulzer Schmid and Cyberhawk now offer efficient and reliable offshore wind turbine inspections in the UK offshore market.”

Nick Simmons, Director USV and Remote Working at Fugro stated, “This was a landmark moment for offshore operations and demonstrates how remote technologies are bringing significant benefits to the offshore wind industry. At Fugro it is important to us to create a safe and liveable world for future generations, our USVs are just one of many innovations we are leveraging to do this. Being able to test innovations like this at the Aberdeen Offshore Windfarm allows us to prove to the industry that the technology not only works but has the ability to completely transform offshore operations going forward, reducing carbon emissions and improving the safety and efficiency of operations , improving safety and efficiency of operations.”

Future projects at the wind farm will be looking at technology innovation in the areas of robotics and sustainable solutions.

Each year, Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm offsets an average 134,000 tonnes of CO2 and meets the power needs of 80,000 UK households.