UK: 5G Testbed to Speed Up Offshore Wind Tech Development

(OE) UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult) said Tuesday that the biggest offshore wind ‘living lab’ in the world would be created off the Grimsby coast through the development of a 5G Testbed that includes Grimsby Port and the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farm.

According to ORE Catapult, the £2.8 million project will accelerate the development of a new generation of digital technologies essential for the huge expansion of offshore wind generation required to meet climate targets.

The project is being driven by a consortium led by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and bringing together the expertise of Microsoft, Vilicom, JET Connectivity, XceCo, Associated British Ports (ABP), Acceleran and Satellite Applications Catapult. 

“The offshore wind sector is growing rapidly, increasing the need for Operations & Maintenance (O&M), which can be both expensive and hazardous. On average, O&M accounts for 25% of the total lifetime cost of an offshore wind farm, and as the sector expands, there is a strong push to reduce this cost by using robotics and autonomous solutions to support necessary inspections, maintenance and repair. The 5G Testbed will allow technology providers to test and demonstrate their equipment in real world conditions, with access to reliable, high-speed communications,” ORE Catapult said.

The project, ORE Catapult said, aims to kickstart a digital revolution in offshore wind O&M in the region and attract users from the global offshore wind sector. 

To create the Testbed, two 5G technology development and demonstration zones over the existing fiber network will be built – one at Grimsby Port and the other within the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farm. 

Fifteen 5G radio transmitters will be placed across five sites, including wind turbines and a radio mast, and two 5G solar-powered buoys will provide an extended 5G network beyond the range of the wind farm. 

JET Connectivity is providing the 5G solar-powered buoys for the project.  

The project will be funded with £1m from the Innovate UK Cyber Physical Infrastructure (CPI) fund, an expected £1m from the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and industry match funding.

Simon Hart, Head of Cyber-Physical Infrastructure (CPI) at Innovate UK said: “This living lab investment opens up a realm of new possibilities for UK innovators and SMEs. For the first time, we will be able to develop and test digital twins, AI, robotics, and 5G in a totally unique offshore wind environment.” 

Halina Davies, Partnerships and Programmes Executive Manager for the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, said:”The 5G testbed will create a unique asset, expertise, and capability that will attract inward investment from the UK and around the world, enabling innovation in leading-edge technologies to be proven in an operational setting, ultimately creating 200 jobs, assisting over 120 businesses and creating 20 new enterprises.” 

The 5G Testbed project will be based at ORE Catapult’s Operations and Maintenance Centre of Excellence in Grimsby, the UK’s largest O&M port.

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