Darlington-based subsea specialist Modus is developing an approach to enable autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to remain at offshore wind farm sites without a support vessel.
If used across the currently operating offshore wind farms, this world-first autonomous subsea survey and inspection system could save European operators GBP 1.1 billion (EUR 1.25bn) over the next 25 years, according to Modus.
Modus Seabed Intervention, in partnership with Osbit Ltd and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, is trialling an AUV docking station. The design will enable vehicle re-charging, as well as the upload of acquired data and download of mission commands, Modus said.
The use of AUVs to survey and inspect offshore wind farm subsea infrastructure is a relatively new cost-efficiency measure in this sector. Replacing support vessels with the AUV docking station could further reduce expenditure. In addition to the estimated GBP 1.1 billion saving across the current European offshore wind farms, the scheme will also significantly reduce the need for staff to work in often hazardous environments, according to Modus.
“Since 2012, Modus has been focusing on the development of hybrid AUV systems to be deployed for subsea and seabed survey, and inspection,” said Managing Director of Modus and project lead Jake Tompkins.
“Part of our vision is to see AUVs becoming field resident, offering significant cost savings and quality benefits to the markets and our customers.”
The Autonomous Vehicle for the Inspection of offshore wind farm Subsea INfrastructure (AVISIoN) project has received funding from Innovate UK. This will enable further development, testing and demonstrations of Modus’ existing Hybrid AUV capability, and docking station.
Testing will take place at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland. The first phase will use saltwater testing docks and Catapult’s National Anemometry Hub. Offshore wind farm developers innogy, EDF Energy and E.ON are also supporting the project, with innogy agreeing to carry commercial trials at the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm.
Graham Thorpe, Asset Integrity Engineer for innogy, said: “As a large offshore wind farm operator, innogy promotes innovation and is happy to aid in the development of technology that will help drive down maintenance costs and potentially benefit the industry as a whole.”