Challenge Areas

Research and innovation challenges for offshore wind in the North of Scotland

A series of innovation calls will address different challenge areas facing the West of Orkney Windfarm and wider offshore wind roll out around the North of Scotland.

EMEC has reviewed the technical research and innovation landscape for offshore wind in the North of Scotland and narrowed down industry-wide initiatives into specific challenge areas pertinent to the West of Orkney Windfarm.

These challenge areas have been developed in close collaboration with the West of Orkney Windfarm (R&I Programme sponsor) to ensure they are targeted towards the highest areas of impact. Whilst the challenge areas below are specific to the West of Orkney Windfarm, it is likely they will be representative of challenges faced by the wider sector and they are likely to evolve as the project and wider industry develops.

The R&I Programme aims to bring other wind farms into the programme over time so future innovation calls may focus on finding solutions for other site-specific and industry-wide challenges.

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The first innovation call is now open and is looking for solutions that address at least one of the specific challenges in our open innovation call (highlighted in green below).

The innovation call will close at 1pm, Monday 12 February 2024.

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Overview of challenge areas

A. Understanding site and metocean

The West of Orkney Windfarm needs to fully understand the site to design for site-specific conditions it will be subjected to and avoid the risk of unanticipated failures and poor performance. This includes the seabed, metocean, marine life, and how this may change over the life of the wind farm (for example sea-level rise or more regular and powerful storm events).

Seabed, sub-bottom & strata
Metocean - wind, waves & current
Fish, mammals, birds & benthic
Long-term effects of climate change

B. Wind turbine generators and layout

The West of Orkney Windfarm will be contracting an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplier for wind turbine generator supply and want to ensure optimal performance across the wind farm over its operational life. This begins with turbine and equipment choice and an optimised layout for maximum resource exposure, and progresses to through-life operational strategies and monitoring for maximum uptime and performance.

Optimised layout & control strategies
Redundancy, fault tolerance & ride-through
Condition monitoring & structural health monitoring
Blade treatments for performance & longevity

C. Foundations, piles and secondary steel

The West of Orkney Windfarm will be contracting fabrication suppliers for foundations and piles and want to reduce cost and mass, maximise use of the Scottish supply chain, and ensure dependability over the life of the wind farm and beyond. This begins with foundation design and understanding local capabilities, and progresses to ensuring lifetime health, life extension and decommissioning.

Novel design(s) for reduced mass
Serial production & local capability
Condition monitoring & structural health monitoring
Digital twins for fatigue, life & life extension

D. Cables, offshore substation platforms & transmission

To ensure maximised transmission of generated power to shore, it is imperative to have an electrical transmission system that is well designed, properly installed, robust, and that performs well with low losses and minimal requirement for maintenance or repair. This begins with minimal-fault installation of cables, cable monitoring and fault prediction, and extends through the system to the grid connection.

Low fault cable-lay in tough conditions
Proving reliability of HVAC equipment
Unmanned fully automated offshore substation platforms
Advanced down-cable analytics

E. Transportation and installation

The West of Orkney Windfarm site is in a particularly exposed location, and relatively far from the key supply ports. A core challenge will be getting the major components (XXL monopiles weighing 4,500t and pin pile jackets weighing 5,000t) transported to the site from the various suppliers, and then installed, integrated and commissioned. Vessel choice, supply-chain logistics and storage, and weather prediction, analysis and learning will be key.

Design for short weather window installation
Construction flow, logistics and project management
Techniques for large components
Removing/separating people from risk

F. Operations and maintenance (O&M), vessel design and supply

The West of Orkney Windfarm is in an exposed location with high wind speeds and sea states, making access challenging. Avoiding the need for access, and innovations that allow access in harsh sea-states, are required. Robotics, vessel design and weather prediction will be key.

Automation, robotics & removing the human
Getting on the turbine in rough seas
Blade maintenance in tough conditions
Zero emission O&M vessels & equipment

G. Life extension, re-powering and decommissioning

Towards the mid-point of the windfarm’s operational life the West of Orkney Windfarm will want to assess options for life-extension ‘as-is', re-powering using future technology, and decommissioning with material recovery and recycling. Decisions taken early on, particularly regarding materials, design, and health monitoring strategy, can help that process and ensure best possible outcomes for the project.

Understanding health for life extension decision-making
New approaches for best-practice decommissioning
New equipment for cable extraction, recovery & recycling
Watching brief for early re-powering and site lease extension

H. Cross-cutting and outside-the-box thinking

In addition to the challenges above, there may be innovations that cut across multiple challenge categories (e.g. machine learning and advanced weather modelling and prediction) or others that fall outside of those identified but would still aid West of Orkney Windfarm to achieve its objectives. This category is a catch-all category if your solution doesn’t fit into one of the aforementioned challenges.

Sustainable materials and recyclability designed-in from start
Machine learning and artificial intelligence for automated monitoring & diagnosis
Remote sensing & operations, robotics and ‘removing the human’
Local capabilities: education, skills and human resources

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Innovation call webinar

Friday 12 January 2024



£1 million offshore wind programme launches innovation call

A £1 million research and innovation (R&I) programme is searching for novel solutions to help deliver offshore wind faster, cheaper and at lower risk.




EMEC has signed a ground-breaking agreement with the West of Orkney Windfarm

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