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Plans for new digital testing environment could revolutionise offshore wind development

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has outlined plans to develop a virtual environment for better planning and maintenance of offshore wind farms, led by its Operations and Maintenance Centre of Excellence in Grimsby.

The Digital Operation and Maintenance Environment (DOME), supported by £600,000 funding from Innovate UK, will provide offshore wind developers and operators with a unique platform to progress, demonstrate and test solutions to common problems facing the offshore industry within a detailed virtual world. It builds on the announcement made earlier this year that ORE Catapult is creating a 5G marine network off the Grimsby coast, creating the biggest offshore wind ‘living lab’ in the world.

The DOME will be the virtual environment within which models, digital twins and data sets can be hosted in a way that protects the intellectual property of the products being developed. It will accelerate development and trials of solutions, from turbine component replacement to robotic system integration, and radar mitigation techniques, reducing technology development timelines and saving millions of pounds over the life of wind farms.

Ben George, Head of Smart Operations and Maintenance (O&M) at ORE Catapult, said: “This is a hugely exciting project that will directly support development of the next generation of smarter, better informed offshore operations and maintenance – needed for the rapid expansion of offshore wind generation across the UK.

“DOME will connect the dots between offshore wind developers and the different elements of the supply chain – leveraging new technology and techniques to help operators and solution providers develop and test their concepts quicker, safer and more cost effectively.”

Simon Hart, Head Of Cyber-Physical Infrastructure at Innovate UK added: “The DOME investment demonstrates the UK’s commitment to Cyber Physical Infrastructure (CPI) that will enable science and innovation across the offshore wind sector. By interconnecting the digital and physical worlds, industry can accelerate innovation and productivity. This will secure jobs and investment helping the UK transform while responding to climate change and decarbonisation.”

ORE Catapult has worked with partners CAE UK, Cognitive Business, Warwick University and Microsoft on the design of the DOME. It is initially focussed on support for offshore wind Operations and Maintenance (O&M) but has been designed to evolve to transform processes across the entire offshore energy life cycle. The next step is to seek industry feedback on the design before progressing to a build and test phase.

The DOME will be managed from ORE Catapult’s Operations and Maintenance Centre of Excellence (OMCE) at Grimsby, the largest offshore wind O&M port in the world.