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Industry Article

Solutions for the Protection of

Offshore Wind Farm Cabling

As the offshore wind industry continues to grow at pace, subsea cabling grows in importance. There
has been a rapid evolution of installation techniques in recent years, but there is still progress to make,
and cabling is a critical sector in the offshore renewable industry. While power cabling only accounts
for approximately 7-10% of initial wind farm installation and development cost, cable damages are
responsible for over 70% of insurance claims on installed wind farms.
Thats a hugely significant figure, and the industry is taking a multi-pronged approach to the issue.
Cable damage is most often caused either during installation or by fishing trawlers and ship anchors
once in situ. To avoid installation damage, there have been advances in seabed surveys and in the
trenching tools and methods used to bury cables, while standards and regulations for the laying of
subsea cables are also being prepared by various organizations. To prevent cable errors or damage
once installed, organizations such as the KIS-ORCA project provide up-to-date information and maps
on subsea cable location to fishermen; while sophisticated protection systems continue to be developed
with the intention of preventing costly repairs at a later date.
Protection versus Repair
One of the main considerations for wind farm developers is whether to invest in cable protection systems
at the installation stage, or to invest in maintenance and repair routines as part of the operating cost of
running the wind farm. These two methods are not necessarily mutually exclusive, of course, as future
repairs remain to a degree unknown and cannot always be planned and budgeted for. Whilst there is
room for operators to use a combination of strategies, cable repair can be extremely expensive and
time-consuming; there is a strong trend towards the development of protection systems with the aim of
avoiding future repair as far as possible.
Cable Protection Technology
Cable protection is one area which is undergoing sustained research and development. There are
several interesting projects being undertaken, while some very innovative products are already entering
the market.
ORE Catapult
Earlier this month a joint industry project was announced between Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE)
Catapult and GnoSys Global Ltd, which will support the development of a new insulation material for
power cables. The material will be intended to improve the performance of power cables and drive down


whole life network costs.

ORE Catapult was established in 2013 by the UK government
and is one of seven Catapults set up by Innovate UK in high
growth industries. It is the UKs flagship technology, innovation
and research centre for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.
The project will involve GnoSys a technology innovation
Source: ORE Catapult
company along with power cable manufacturers and users,
to further develop a new generation of polymer blend-based cables to provide greater insulation, to
improve electrical connection reliability, and to increase energy to power conversion. It follows on from
the Innovate UK-funded project led by GnoSys and the University of Southampton, SUSCABLE.
Pipex px
Pipex px has provided cable protection systems for the oil and gas industries as well as the offshore
wind industry over the past thirty years, and has already installed a protection system at the Statoil
Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm off the coast of Norfolk, UK. The Pipex px systems are typically
manufactured from robust and highly corrosion resistant High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) materials,
which according to the company offer a host of safety, environmental and cost benefits compared with
conventional Polyurethane (PU) products.
Turbines foundation piles are susceptible to scour brought about by high tidal flow, and a common
method of avoiding this is to use Rock Dump Scour Protection. However, this can lead to problems
when installing the array cables into the turbine J tubes without incurring damage to the cables. The
Pipex px Scour Zone Protection System is designed to tackle this issue, and has been demonstrated at
the Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm. A specially designed and fabricated HDPE corrosion resistant pipe
sleeve was supplied to cover the power cables running from turbines to sub stations, with a combined
total length of 750 metres. Visibility was ensured by finishing the spools in a bright yellow colour, and
due to the robust interlocking pipe design, seabed installation was achieved using a pull system which
helped to reduce overall installation costs.
Tekmar Energy is one of the leading suppliers of cable protection systems for the wind industry. The
company has secured various high profile contracts after successfully demonstrating its Tektube cable
protection system at the National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, UK, last year.


Tekmar developed
revolutionized the
protection of subsea
has been used
in more than 27
projects since its
Tektube technology
follows on from
for a J-tubeless
connection system
that can be installed
onshore and offers
an alternative for
jacket, gravity-base and floating foundations.

Source: Tekmar

The Tektube system is secured to the wind turbine foundation onshore, then sealed and prepared to
be received by the installation vessel. It reduces the time and complexity of installation offshore, and
therefore helps to reduce costs. It also minimizes the associated risks of damage to cables during
installation, as the work is undertaken onshore. Tektube was first unveiled in late 2013, and Tekmar
successfully demonstrated the technology over a series of demo days at the National Renewable
Energy Centre in Blyth last summer.
Since those demonstrations Tekmar has announced the development of a new 75,000 sq ft, state-of-theart production facility in the North of England, along with the news that its technology is already planned
for use in high profile wind farm projects. The company will supply cable installation contractor, VBMS,
with 92 of its systems this summer to protect the cables into the 48 J-tubeless monopile foundations
for the Siemens EPC project as part of the Westermeerwind offshore wind farm off the coast of the


Pipeline Engineering - PEFLEX

Another system already on the market is that produced by Pipeline Engineering, a brand of Circor
Energy, which has developed PEFLEX a polyurethane cable protection system designed to protect
the export and array cables of offshore wind farms.
The system protects the cables against over-bending, while increasing the strength and stiffness among
the cable. PEFLEX is assembled around the cable using rigid interlocking polyurethane vertebrae, and
is pulled and locked into place at the monopiles and substations using a centralizer and gripper, without
the need for divers or remotely operated vehicles. It requires low pull-in forces, and crucially can be
used with J-tube or J-tubeless connections. PEFLEX is corrosion resistant, anti-abrasive, tear resistant
and impact resistant. It provides cable fatigue protection and can negate the need for scour protection.
Once installed, the system prevents power cables from over-bending when the minimum bend radius
is reached.
Pipeline Engineering has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for PEFLEX cable protection systems,
and supplied the protection system for phase one of the London Array Wind Farm.
As wind farms move out to deeper water farther from shore, cabling becomes incrementally more
important. It is one area where rapid development and innovation is needed, both in terms of reliability
and manufacturing cables that can efficiently transmit increased levels of power.
Cable repair will become increasingly difficult in deeper water and harsher conditions; operational costs
are already significantly affected by cabling. Down-time is extremely expensive during installation and
operation of wind farms, and this is something that the industry must improve upon to bring down overall
The most common types of damage to subsea cabling for wind farms include damage that occurs during
the installation phase, which may not manifest itself in problems immediately, and damage caused by
ship anchors and fishing vessels. Cable protection can address both issues by improving upon the
installation methods and by providing robust long-term solutions that prevent against on-going damage.
The Tekmar Tektube technology could represent a step-change in the industry as not only does it
use J-Tubeless connections, but it can be pre-installed onshore and therefore avoids the pitfalls of


installation at sea. The development of products such as the Pipex px high density polyethylene (HDPE)
protection system also provide a hint to the trend towards creating and using more robust materials;
as does the ORE Catapult and GnoSys project, which aims to further develop the next generation of
polymer-based products.
Cable repairs account for over 70% of insurance claims on existing wind farms; that statistic needs to
change. Its an exciting time within the cable industry and it will be fascinating to see how these products
and ideas are developed over the coming years.
Colin Pawsey for Wind Energy IQ