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Researchers collaborate to prevent faults in offshore wind farm cables

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is a partner in a new research project to design a system which detects and prevents high voltage insulation faults in subsea power cables for offshore wind farms.

Funded by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) Offshore Wind Component Technologies Development and Demonstration Scheme, GCU lecturer and researcher Dr Alistair Reid will work with High Voltage Partial Discharge Ltd (HVPD), Alstom Grid, and the University of Strathclyde on the nine-month project. The scheme supports projects which will work towards lowering the costs of generating offshore wind energy.

Offshore wind has tremendous potential to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels, help cut carbon and help meet the UK’s renewables targets. Approximately 30% of the UK’s electricity is predicted to come from renewable sources by 2020. DECC claims there is potential to drive down costs of offshore wind by 25% by 2020 and 60% by 2050, but further investment is needed in this area.

“If there is a cable fault, particularly subsea, it is extremely costly to repair," said Dr Reid, a lecturer and researcher in electronic and electrical engineering, with interests in diagnostic monitoring techniques and systems for early warning of catastrophic events. "GCU’s labs can generate any form of supply voltage. We will use these facilities to apply different types of voltage stressing to cable insulation, interpret the signals and propose new solutions to predicting failures before they occur."   

To achieve the required off-shore wind generation capacity, a range of new high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables and converter systems are planned or are being installed. On-line condition monitoring of these systems is essential given the potential cost of failure. However, the required features of measured data that facilitate failure prediction are different to those already established over the past decades for conventional AC transmission systems.
Using its unique high voltage labs, which are used for testing and analysis of partial discharge data, GCU is receiving £56,000 of grant funding to propose new diagnostic solutions to on-line HVDC cable monitoring.
Using this research, Manchester-based High Voltage Partial Discharge Ltd (HVPD) aims to develop a condition monitoring system for HVDC networks for application to both HVDC converters and HVDC cables, including offshore wind farm export cables.
By providing an early warning system against incipient electrical and thermal insulation faults, offshore wind farms will be able to apply direct preventative maintenance interventions. 

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power