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ORE Catapult predicts greater role for robots in future offshore wind farms

CTBR Staff Writer Published 27 February 2018

Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has predicted an explosion of innovation by 2050 in the UK’s offshore wind sector, which it says will be dominated by robots and autonomous technology.

The technology innovation and research centre said that offshore wind turbines with tens of rotors in the future will be serviced by scores of autonomous robots. It also predicted that wind turbines may give way to parachute-shaped kites.

According to ORE Catapult, within the next 12 years, offshore wind power has the potential to become the major source for power in the UK. Driven by pioneering designs and storage technology, offshore wind could cover a third of the power consumption in the UK, predicted ORE Catapult.

The predictions have been made by the organization based on its current research and design while giving a glimpse of how the future offshore wind farms may look like, in 2030, 2040 and 2050.

ORE Catapult believes that in the next two to three decades, robots and drones, with automated motherships will carry armies of droids to hazardous offshore sites, to perform maintenance and basic repairs, thereby reducing costs.

It also predicts that turbines size will increase in the future. However, the challenges posed by increased scale and weight will only bring out more innovative designs such as multi-rotor designs and vertical axis turbines, said ORE Catapult.

By 2030, the agency predicts floating wind farms will become very common and standard, with turbines becoming larger and producing more than 15MW.

By 2040, ORE Catapult predicted that turbines will be powered with a new type of technology while there will be vast roll out of floating kite power generator.

The agency said that by 2050, wind turbines will grow to such an extent, that 200m blades length will become the norm in single-rotor designs. The period between 2040 and 2050 will also see the use of robots and the Mothership, which will be fully autonomous boats used for transferring crew to offshore turbines among other innovations.

ORE Catapult research and innovation director Dr. Stephen Wyatt said: “While we will see an increase in automation and robotics, this new wave of offshore technology will, in fact, create jobs, with engineers and programmers required to create, maintain and operate these devices.

“Offshore crew transfers will still be a vital part of operations, as more complex tasks are unlikely to ever be fully possible using robotic technology.”