By Liz Burdock, President & CEO, Business Network for Offshore Wind
In my last message on offshore wind energy cables, I addressed several contracts that have been signed between offshore wind projects and cable providers. Now, I want to take a deeper dive into this important industry segment by looking at both the past and future of subsea cables.
Subsea cable technology has made significant improvements over the past ten years. However, it is still considered a risky area for offshore wind farms because 80 percent of all offshore wind insurance claims involve the cables. At our upcoming event on cables, taking place January 23 in Houston, we will get an insurer’s perspective through lessons learned from past installation projects, best practices for overcoming installation challenges, and actions the industry is taking to minimize risks.
This is important because subsea cables are difficult to monitor and expensive to repair, both in actual repair costs and lost production time — to an individual turbine and an entire wind farm. Therefore, it is critical to get design and installation right the first time. Even seemingly simple decisions about how deep to bury cables in the sea floor and how to protect them from the dredges of commercial fishermen have had major consequences for past projects.
Looking ahead, the future of the subsea cable business includes designing for floating wind turbines, which will allow wind farms to be built in water deeper than 60 meters (200 feet). Rory Shanahan, manager of Offshore Wind, Carbon Trust, leads research on the electrical systems & cables for the Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) project. Rory has worked on both the 66kV Cable Qualification Competition, where three cable manufacturers were supported to test and qualify their 66kV array cables, and the Dynamic Export Cable project as part of the Floating Wind JIP, a collaborative R&D initiative between Carbon Trust and fourteen prominent international offshore wind developers.
The JIP is supporting five cable suppliers as they develop and test their preliminary dynamic export cable designs. The ultimate objective of this work is to ensure that this necessary technology is a viable option for developers for commercial scale projects in the next five to ten years. Rory will participate on a panel that is just one of several that will present market trends and other aspects of the subsea cable business.
I am very encouraged by the level of cooperation between cable manufacturers, government regulators and offshore wind developers to improve this technology in areas of design, installation, operations and maintenance. You can learn more about cables by attending our upcoming event, Subsea Cables: A Critical Connection, taking place in Houston on January 23.