Blyth test laboratory given upgrade at the double

The resonant transformer in the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapults high-voltage electrical lab in Blyth.
The resonant transformer in the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapults high-voltage electrical lab in Blyth.
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Blyth’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult has upgraded its high-voltage electrical laboratory to provide an enhanced testing capability unique in the UK.

The move paves the way for an industry shift from 33 kilovolts to 66 kV for future offshore wind inter-array electrical systems.

The revamp of the Albert Street operation’s adjustable high-voltage reactor involved fitting an automated control system and increasing the power rating of its 600kV resonant transformer to 150 kilowatts of power.

That means the test lab is now capable of exerting simulated operating stresses on electrical cables up to 20 times more powerful than they would have to cope with in real-life conditions.

Such experiments, known as highly-accelerated lifetime tests, are intended to cause breakdown of cables’ insulation, enabling researchers to identify their breaking points.

Doubling the kilovolt level of array systems in offshore wind farms is set to have a dramatic impact on the sector, enabling increased offshore power density, lower operational losses and a resulting reduction in the levelised cost of energy. That would set the stage for the development of larger offshore wind power parks made up of higher-capacity turbines.

Alex Neumann, asset and business development manager at the Blyth research centre, said: “This upgrade represents a significant step-up for the high-voltage laboratory, allowing the business to provide a unique service to the market.”

“This new service enables the cost-effective development of new technology and complements the accelerated lifetime test work that we have developed with our clients to fast-track their products’ development and availability.”

Jeremy Featherstone, product development director for Edinburgh-based offshore industry supply firm JDR Cable Systems, added: “This enhancement has played a significant role in supporting our development programme, allowing us to better predict the expected lifetime of the power cable, as well as to validate and qualify its design.

“This capability will allow us to move to 66kV inter-array power supply, which is a key driver to ensuring future offshore renewable energy development is cost-effective and reliable.”