How robotics can revolutionize the path toward net zero | مركز سمت للدراسات

How robotics can revolutionize the path toward net zero

Date & time : Thursday, 26 October 2023

Ken Chan

The offshore wind industry is a key player in the UK’s journey towards a cleaner way of living and working and achieving its ambitious Net Zero targets.

To meet the UK government’s goal to generate 30% of the nation’s electricity from offshore wind by 2030, the sector must undergo rapid scaling which involves fully embracing robotic technology. Robotics presents a huge opportunity for the offshore wind sector to keep pace with the scale of change, strengthening the UK’s competitive edge in clean energy.

Role of robotics in offshore wind

The UK’s Net Zero targets require a sevenfold increase in offshore wind capacity, with the sector operating at an unprecedented scale. In the UK’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, announced in November 2020, one of the key points was advancing offshore wind. The goal outlined was to generate 40 GW of electricity from offshore wind by 2030, a substantial increase from the existing capacity. This includes 1GW of innovative floating offshore wind, allowing for the exploration of deep-water locations which traditional bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines cannot access.

To meet this goal, traditional methods of installing and maintaining offshore wind farms need to evolve, especially when dealing with deep-water and remote locations, which are indeed more challenging due to their inaccessibility and the extreme conditions. Additionally, this scale-up requires developments in the supply chain, infrastructure, and workforce training and safety, which are crucial for sustaining high levels of offshore wind installation and operation. Crucially, this is where robotics step in.

Robots can operate autonomously or be controlled from land, reducing the reliance on large vessels to be deployed offshore. This leads to a significant reduction in air, water, and oil pollution generated by traditional maintenance because robots can be more precise and efficient in their tasks, reducing the time and resources needed for maintenance and minimizing the potential for errors and rework, which can also have environmental impacts.

Combined with monitoring and diagnostics technologies, robots can also enable more proactive and optimized maintenance schedules, reducing unnecessary interventions and thus minimizing environmental impact. Furthermore, reducing the need for human presence offshore decreases the overall environmental footprint of maintenance operations. Human presence typically requires additional resources and support systems, all of which have associated environmental impacts.

ORE Catapult currently supports many robotic projects that have the potential to transform the offshore wind industry.

For example, we have forged a collaborative partnership with BladeBUG, a London-based innovation firm. Our collaboration focuses on testing and demonstrating their state-of-the-art robotic crawler. This technology has been designed specifically for meticulous inspections of wind turbine blades and other associated components. Through combined efforts, we aim to refine and enhance the capabilities of this robotic crawler, ensuring that wind turbine inspections are more efficient, accurate, and safe.

Another company, Honuworx, is developing a subsea robotic system, known as Ridley, a submersible deployment and operations platform for large subsea robots that delivers a cost effective and more environmentally friendly alternative to large vessel-based subsea systems. The platform can support industry standard subsea robots and is towed to the intervention site using a small service vessel of opportunity. Once there, the platform submerges to deploy subsea robots without the need for complex lifting equipment and without the risk commonly associated with crane-based deployments through the splash-zone. The Ridley system utilizes a cloud-based mission control system to allow a geographically distributed team to monitor operational data and collaborate in real time.

The combination of a novel submersible deployment and operations platform with cloud-based distributed mission control allows the Ridley system to provide a competitive subsea robotic service that is less costly, less polluting and rapidly configurable to meet the needs of all sectors of the Blue Economy.

Ridley will open the door to an even more ambitious Honuworx concept, Loggerhead, that will utilize an uncrewed submersible robotic vessel as a mobile power and communications hub for ROVs and AUVs.

By embracing robotics, the offshore wind industry can create cleaner and more sustainable energy solutions faster and more efficiently.

Unlocking a multibillion-pound robotics industry

The growth of the offshore wind sector creates another huge opportunity to develop a thriving robotics industry from the UK. The scale and complexity of offshore wind projects demands advanced robotic systems capable of handling the installation, maintenance, and inspection of turbines in challenging environments. The development of such technologies will not only support the offshore wind industry but also position the UK as a global leader in robotics, opening up export opportunities across the world.

By leading in the development of advanced robotics, the UK can pave the way for lucrative export opportunities, disseminating technology and expertise globally. This positioning can foster international collaborations, leading to continuous innovation and improvement in robotic technologies. Beyond the immediate benefits to the offshore wind sector, the advancements in robotics can have far-reaching implications and applications in various other sectors, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture. This multiplicity of applications can spur economic growth, create high-value employment, and reinforce the UK’s commitment to fostering sustainable and innovative industries.

Automation and the future of offshore maintenance

The automation of offshore maintenance through large-scale deployment of robotics is imperative to achieve the required output from offshore wind operations. This enables people to focus on higher-value tasks onshore while ensuring the continuous and efficient operation of wind farms offshore. Bringing people back onshore reduces risks and supports the growth of local talent and expertise in new skills – ultimately creating jobs for the future. While robots can assist in conducting routine inspections and minor repairs, more complex maintenance tasks often require human expertise. Bringing workers back onshore allows for in-depth maintenance and repair work to be performed in controlled environments with access to specialized tools and equipment. This ensures the quality and effectiveness of maintenance activities, enhancing the overall performance and longevity of offshore wind farms.

By embracing robotics, the industry can nurture and expand its pool of skilled workers. This includes not only technicians and engineers but also professionals in areas such as project management, logistics, environmental monitoring, and regulatory compliance. These future jobs contribute to the growth of local towns and cities and provide a foundation for sustainable employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

Enabling a circular economy and zero waste

The innovative use of robotic technology on a large scale plays a pivotal role in achieving a circular economy and zero waste in the offshore renewable energy industry. Robots can be designed to carry out precise inspections, monitor performance, and detect potential issues in real-time. This proactive approach helps to optimize maintenance schedules, reduce downtime, and minimize waste, resulting in increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Source:Renewa Bleenergy World


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