The future of energy goes through offshore wind farms. And for that we need autonomous submarines

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Offshore wind farms gain strength. They do it in Europe, with plants like the wikingerin Germany, or the recently activated Hornsea 2, in the North Sea; in Asia, that stomps with the push of China and Japan; and even here, in Spain, where Greenalia projects several marine parks on the coast of Gran Canaria. Newcomer to the White House, even the Joe Biden team introduced an ambitious plan to deploy 30 GW by 2030 and reach 110 GW by 2050, all with the mobilization of 12,000 million dollars annually in capital investments.

The problem is that the system, as currently laid out, requires a complex first step and not exempt from “bottlenecks”. If the US, for example, wants distribute 2,000 turbines along the coast of the country, first you will have to analyze its impact well: map the seabed, study the bed, its species, calibrate the effect of the plants… A complex process.

And slow.

And expensive.

Completing it requires mobilizing manned and autonomous vessels, as well as sonar devices capable of collecting information on the depth, temperature and composition of the bottom. In total, several months of work -half a year, as detailed offshore wind developer Ørsted to Morning Brew—at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. Just for the ship to move to the study area can already require several weeks of waiting.

The key, under the sea

The solution to speed up the start-up of mill farms, facilitate their installation and improve their conservation could come from the hand of a new ally: submersibles; specifically, of the electric and autonomous submarines -AUV, for its acronym in English-, devices capable of navigate hundreds of meters deep and be operational for hours.

Unlike large ships, which must travel to the area in which geophysical and geotechnical information is to be collected, AUVs can also travel from the coast, without the need for a ship, or even move from one point to another on the globe. By plane.

One of the companies that has made a strong commitment to this new niche is Bedrock Ocean Exploration, which proposes the use of autonomous submarines to “collect and manage data from the seafloor in a more intelligent and efficient way”. Their AUVs are portable and intended for localized underwater missions depths of up to 300 meters and 90 km from the coast. The firm ensures that its devices save time and expense in processing permits, operate with lithium-ion batteries, travel at around two or three knots —from 3.7 to 5.5 km/h— and its customers they can consult all the data directly in the cloud.

“The operational profile of Bedrock’s drilling is optimized for renewable energy projects in the ocean. It is designed for exploration and reconnaissance of sites, the export and installation of cables between networks and for operations and maintenance studies”, details the companywhich also specifies that its AUV can also be used for tidal energy projects, carbon storage or hydrogen installations.

According the calculations shared by its CEO and co-founderAnthony DiMare, with Morning Brew, his goal is to get “a pace ten times faster” than what is now achieved using only traditional methods. Thus, if the process now lasts around half a year, Bedrock seeks to leave it in just three weeks. Other voices point, more than to the ability of AUVs to displace conventional boats, to their potential as support and complement.

For now, Bedrock has already managed to capture nearly eight million euros of investors interested in its project and works to strengthen its structure and increase the number of AUVs. It is not, in any case, the only company that focuses its attention on the advantages of a technology with other applications, such as search and rescue operations, surveillance or underwater works. ECA Group, kongsberg and mbarifor example, also work with AUV.

bedrock

In offshore wind farms, however, they could play an important role. Due to its advantages, as Bedrock points out; and by the very expansion of the activity, which far transcends the US coast. According to the data handled by Gamesa, 15 power plants were commissioned in 2020, bringing the total number of operational offshore power facilities globally to more than 160. “This growth in offshore wind power is projected to accelerate in the coming years, with global installations forecast at ~200 GW by 2030,” points.

Images | bedrock

Offshore wind farms gain strength. They do it in Europe, with plants like the wikingerin Germany, or the recently activated…

Offshore wind farms gain strength. They do it in Europe, with plants like the wikingerin Germany, or the recently activated…

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