Innovative NOC project wins funding to support Blue Economy and sustainable energy

A new project being led by the National Oceanography Centre to develop a system to improve the efficiency of offshore renewable energy generation and help develop the Blue Economy has been awarded funding from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund.

Submarine High-fidelity Active-monitoring of Renewable energy Cables (SHARC) aims to improve the operational efficiency of offshore renewable energy generation by addressing failure management of critical subsea infrastructure, in this case submarine cables. Between 2014 and 2017, recorded cable failures across UK sites alone led to a cumulative loss of £227 million, highlighting the importance of innovations to improve cable failure-management strategies. 

Reducing these costs will make offshore renewables more competitive and accelerate their uptake, contributing to the UK Government's Clean Growth Strategy and enabling net-zero carbon emissions. Furthermore, COVID-19 has increased the need for remote monitoring of assets. Remote monitoring can be performed in socially distanced settings, removing the need to deploy crews offshore to operate in the tight confines of vessels. This approach is more economically efficient, as it will allow in-service fibre-optics to be remotely accessed. Additionally, it will reduce the health risks to employees by limiting their potential exposure to COVID-19, enabling the offshore renewable energy industry to 'build back better'.

The SHARC project will develop innovative techniques to monitor the condition of cables in real-time, taking into account the combined influence of various marine-environmental and intrinsic cable heating effects. This will result in early detection of potential threats to cables or better prediction of their potential failures, which will enable timely intervention,avoiding large-scale damage and the associated costly downtimes.

To achieve this goal, the NOC is leading a team of world-class experts from the fields of marine geoscience, next-generation distributed fibre optics design and instrumentation, ocean technology and engineering, machine learning & artificial intelligence algorithm design, and exploitation and modelling of dynamic and static cable rating, with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) as the end-user and key stakeholder. 

SHARC project lead, Dr Mohammad Belal from the National Oceanography Centre, said: "The SHARC project will develop the capability to accurately monitor and assess the condition of subsea infrastructure that supports offshore renewable energy production in real-time, and has the potential to avert and address potential damage before it’s too late, by which time it becomes incredibly expensive to repair. The societal benefits that SHARC will contribute to are also significant in terms of the more efficient generation of clean, renewable energy, reducing the risk to people operating in this sector, with concurrent monitoring of the precious oceanic environment."

Innovate UK Executive Chair, Dr Ian Campbell, said: “The National Oceanography Centre’s SHARC project, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development.”