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Robotics boost for offshore wind farms

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A consortium of university researchers has been granted £4m to develop inspection technology for wind farms.

UK researchers, as part of a consortium, have developed a human-robotics hybrid solution for the maintenance and operation of offshore wind farms.

The consortium that consists of the University of Manchester, the University of Warwick, Cranfield University, Durham University and Heriot-Watt University will receive 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 extend their lifespan.

Dr David Flynn, director of the Smart Systems Group at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The 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 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% of cable failure modes cannot be monitored in-situ, inhibiting accurate health monitoring.  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."

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

The remote inspection technology industry is expected to be worth more than £2 billion by 2020, according to Heriot-Watt University’s team. 
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