With the recent announcement of the winners of the ScotWind leasing round and the New York Bight, the successful bidders will now be planning for the next stages of their projects. Surveys may now be ongoing or planned in the immediate future and then driving through into the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and concept engineering.
Consentable and constructable
Understanding the complexities of cable route planning and layout implications will be a major challenge over the coming months and years. Export and array cables are equally critical to the success of offshore wind farms; however, from the perspective of metered generation, the reliability of the transmission assets is a through-life priority and decisions made now will have implications that endure.
Reliability of the export cable system begins at the route definition stage and relies upon effective consideration and detailed understanding of the constraints (environmental and technical) that requires robust data, expertise, and the ability to interrogate millions of cable route options to provide incisive decision making on consentable and constructable routes that minimise installation risks and maintain reliability throughout the operational life.
The ScotWind projects circle Scotland and are therefore subjected to the myriad of variations in seabed geology, habitats, environmental conditions, other sea users and infrastructure distribution. These challenges are mirrored wherever projects are on a path to operation – globally. This means that each project is different, and some will have a vast swath of options, opportunities and challenges. These need to be incisively interrogated to have confidence in corridor definition for surveys and to provide evidence to stakeholders that decisions have been made robustly and with due consideration of all options.
Developers may have already been out to do some initial surveys and my advice for the successful bidders would be to organise more detailed surveys quickly. It’s currently very busy in the survey market so getting those contracts or frame agreements in place is essential. I expect the developers will be looking to get these done this year, if not already in place or well progressed.
Particularly from an environmental perspective, things need to get moving with geophysical and benthic surveys feeding into the EIA process. To plan the engineering process, developers will need to be assessing the survey corridors straight away to enable tendering with confidence, securing cable manufacture slots and suitable vessels. This needs to be done quickly and efficiently.
Xodus has been working with Continuum Industries in the shaping of the Optioneer™ tool to deliver confidence to clients through a new and efficient approach to optioneering studies for linear infrastructure. It allows our team to ingest masses of data, set up the design rules and interrogate to define the most likely (consentable and constructable) route options using AI algorithms to make this efficient, wide ranging, robust and ultimately, successful.
We have taken the effort of “walking the line” to define a corridor to a new level. In the past, we could only talk about how wide an envelope we have looked at and a narrow context of “we have considered 10 route options”. Now we can say, and this is a realistic number for recent projects, “we have considered more than 30 million route options across the envelope; these are the highest-ranking options”. It is delivered quickly, reliably and the information is enduring for iterative analysis and sensitivity cases. We can also refine with new data post-survey running at higher resolutions, from 30 x 30 m down to metre by metre – this is truly game changing. Indeed, we will likely get to the point where the regulators may ask why this level of interrogation and analysis has not been done.
So, the technology is here, the knowledge and experience are in place to drive it, the opportunity for developers to get robust confidence in their cable route and the implications for through-life reliability is a phone call away.
James Hunt, Interconnectors & Cables Lead at Xodus, is inspired by innovation, driven by efficient project delivery and passionate about helping people reach their potential.