Marine-i: Space Data Project Enters New Discovery Phase
A new project aims to bring the precision of space data to renewable energy development and, by reducing various risks, costs and carbon emissions, help the UK quadruple its offshore wind capacity by 2030.
The innovative space data project is now underway, bringing together collaboration and expertise from Marine-i, 4 Earth Intelligence (4EI), University of Exeter, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult), and University of Plymouth.
The application of space data to renewable energy is a relatively new area of focus – and one where marginal gains in data precision and forecasting accuracy bring the potential for significant impact.
Currently, offshore renewable energy sites assess the risks and costs of development through a mixture of in-situ sensors, aerial survey, radar, and some space data. But these data can be time consuming and costly to acquire, presenting a key bottleneck in the expansion of offshore renewable energy.
On this front, satellite earth observation can provide data on a range of vital indicators, such as weather, sea state, environmental impacts, and vessel activity. This comprehensive data, then, brings with it the opportunity to assess these sites with far greater precision.
Space image shows the potential for precise mapping of vessel activity (in this example). Credit: NASA-USGS Landsat-8 Image over the Thanet Array.
Monitoring offshore sites in this way can provide green energy developers with a cohesive profile that clearly pinpoints the different risks, costs, and energy potential of each site. This comprehensive evidence-base – assessing everything from the risks to personnel, to operational equipment, to surrounding marine life – is crucial for driving offshore energy production forwards in the next decade, as investment in this area relies on trust, precision and certainty.
As the project enters its discovery phase, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult have started, as Marine-i partner Neil Farrington said, “mapping the data flow requirements for offshore floating wind, from the pre-consenting phase, through operations, to the de-commissioning stage”. By giving a full picture of the data needed for offshore wind operations, ORE Catapult will provide the basis for 4 Earth Intelligence to apply their satellite technology and expertise to the offshore renewable sector.
This will enable 4EI – with their experience in adapting space-based data into new industries – to identify exactly where the precision of this data can help reduce the risk, cost, and carbon of offshore wind farms. After this pioneering research phase, the project will commercially integrate this space data and services into the Offshore Renewables sector.
As Richard Flemmings, 4EI’s Chief Technical Officer, explains: “Our overall aim is the creation of a new marine data management and analysis service that will initially be targeted at the rapidly developing floating offshore wind opportunity in the Celtic Sea.
“Improving and expanding system functions and efficiency whilst identifying critical market opportunities will produce direct cost savings, carbon savings and risk reduction for developments in this sector, increasing market competitiveness and accelerating its penetration into the low carbon energy generation market.”
In 2020, the UK government announced its target of producing 40 gigawatts of energy from offshore renewables each year, by 2030. For the layman, that’s the equivalent of producing enough energy to fuel every home in the UK. Since the UK currently produces 10 gigawatts of energy from offshore renewables each year, the ambitious target requires the innovation of new technologies and applications if it is going to be met.
This partnership is a crucial stepping stone towards that goal, and one that will help catalyse the development of offshore renewables to match the government’s Build Back Greener target.
By focusing in on the Celtic Sea, for example, the project identified five areas with the potential for 49-120 gigawatts of new floating wind. This huge potential – which could see the Celtic Sea fulfil 62-151% of the UK’s annual electricity demand – highlights the possibilities opened up by innovation in this area.
Supported by the Marine-I project in its vital first stages, this project also cements Cornwall and the South West’s position as global leaders in the Marine and Offshore Renewables sectors. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the project brings in a new Technical Lead and Project Coordinator to Cornwall and ensures that the area’s marine technology sector continues to harness the full potential of research and innovation.
In the words of Professor Lars Johanning, Marine-i’s Programme Director, this project also puts “Cornwall at the forefront of a completely new approach to satellite data which would have worldwide applications”, and supports the development of strategic visions for multiple users of the sea space.
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