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Case study

Facing the challenge of speeding up consent in offshore renewable energy

November 29, 2023

The drive for cleaner, greener energy set against financial constraints in a challenging world market could mean testing times ahead for offshore renewable energy (ORE).

In order to meet pressing timescales, cost saving criteria and governmental targets for energy production, the industry needs shorter consenting periods for offshore wind projects but also better characterisation data. Better data would suggest the need for a longer, more costly, consenting period. So how can this challenge be met?

At Sonardyne, we believe our Origin® acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) may offer at least part of the solution. ADCPs use acoustics to measure the water column to determine currents and many can also measure wave motion and turbulence. They can provide metocean data for decision making on; where to place floating turbines to ensure moorings are not stressed, determining where scour may occur that will damage cables or structures, array cable selection, route planning and cable’s depth of burial predictions etc.

Obtaining high quality, accurate, current and wave data has always been a challenge in the marine environment. Which is far from ideal when there’s a need for more timely, precise data. Meanwhile, traditional ADCP technology does not have resolution high enough to distinguish fine-scale turbulence. The correct measurement of turbulence is a key factor in ensuring that any planning at the consenting stage is based on accurate data.

With accurate data at the consenting stage, developers can reduce options and decide on the exact foundation solution, maximum turbine size etc. They can then plan with certainty and model simple environmental impact assessments for presentation to the consenting authorities.

Enter Origin…
Our Origin 600 and 65 ADCPs signify a sea change in ocean floor ADCP technology and are the most advanced ADCP’s presently on the market.

Alongside industry standard PD0, new and exclusive A-gram and B-gram proprietary data formats offer up to ten times greater spatial resolution and provide superior quality data for more informed decision making.

The inbuilt acoustic modem provides the ability to; check operating status, test data quality and change schedules mid-mission. It also provides remote access to the customisable Edge data processing applications on Origin. This means that while the device is deployed, it can be programmed to output concise, relevant information, rather than bulky raw data that would normally be processed once the device is recovered from the water. All without the cost and risk associated with interfacing an external modem or running a cabled ADCP operation.

Realising the potential
Taking this a step further and combining Origin’s data and communication capabilities with autonomous data collection via an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) or surface buoy potentially offers many advantages.

Operators can make informed decisions faster as more frequent, concise data samples can be collected throughout the deployment, rather than waiting for the ADCP’s retrieval. Data can be collected at intervals via a USV passing overhead or transmitted to Cloud storage via a LiDAR buoy.

Reduction of carbon emissions during missions can also be achieved. USV data harvesting and an ADCP battery life of over three months are just two in which the need for a carbon-heavy crewed vessel would be reduced. The associated costs and HSE exposure hours would be reduced too.

Origin’s ability to provide high fidelity data, often in near real-time – depending on the harvesting method – offers the potential to meet the data requirements within a shorter timeframe.


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Concept testing.
A proof-of-concept trial was conducted in Plymouth Sound in April 2023, with the aim of establishing the range and quality of data transmittable from the seabed via Origin and a USV to the shore.

An Origin 600 was mounted on a tripod frame and integrated with a third-party turbidity sensor before being deployed at a depth of approximately 8m in Cawsand Bay. For the purposes of the test, Origin was configured, via the Edge processing app, to average out its readings alongside those from the turbidity sensor for the previous 20 minutes and to send the results acoustically every five minutes. In a real-world scenario, this update rate would usually be configured less frequently.

Our USV ‘Decibel’ was fitted with; an Avtrak6 Nano to receive the data, a deck topside box running the Origin topside software and a control unit payload supplied by the Metocean, Science and Technology team at RPS, to push the data to a Cloud storage via Iridium. For this trial, the team at RPS took LiDAR technology and integrated it into a buoy with power, data storage and satellite communication capabilities. Applying deep expertise of offshore measurement, the design and development process was focussed on creating a reliable design to maximise data accuracy and return, while making the process of information gathering easier and more cost-effective.

Decibel then hovered on the surface above Origin and performed a slow drift off test to establish an understanding of communication coverage/range limits. A lateral excursion of 87 metres was achieved, which equates to a very small elevation angle of almost five degrees – important for shallow water buoys in areas with strong tidal patterns. Once the test was complete, data that had been stored by Origin was compared to the data it had transmitted to the Cloud, via the acoustic modem, Nano and the RPS control unit.

As expected, there was no significant difference between the two data sets other than Origin storing more data than was transmitted to the cloud. This was due to the USV drifting off location to test its range. In a real-life situation, a USV or buoy would maintain a set position and link to the Cloud so more data would be transmitted.

The trial proved proof of concept getting data into the Cloud. Further work is now underway into how we can further integrate Origin with floating LiDAR buoys.

Edge’s future value to offshore wind.
As discussed, Edge computing enables users to process data directly on the Origin 600 and send only the critical information over the acoustic modem to the topside. This approach has numerous benefits, including early data insights, more efficient data management at the front end and a sense of relief that the unit is performing as expected (or reducing PDA: post-deployment anxiety!).

Implementing Edge computing via an Origin ADCP can help revolutionise the way in-situ ORE monitoring is conducted in the future. Processing the data at source before transmission reduces data overload by focusing solely on critical information. When combined with AI learning, it will reduce data swamping, lead to quicker but better decision-making and, hopefully, help get turbines in the ground sooner. All while advancing the move towards cleaner, greener, autonomous ORE operations.


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