A recent pilot project has verified the application of autonomous surface and subsea platforms for operations and maintenance (O&M) at the Deutsche Bucht Offshore Wind Farm, located in the German North Sea.
The July 2023 project was commissioned by wind farm owner Northland Power to verify performance and further develop the operational workflows of Subsea Europe Services’ Autonomous Surveyor uncrewed surface vessel (USV) for multibeam surveying and A.IKANBILIS hovering autonomous underwater vehicle (HAUV) for subsea inspections such as scour and marine growth surveys, when deployed from a service operations vessel (SOV) mothership already resident for O&M at the wind farm.
According to Subsea Europe Services, the mothership concept was proven successful throughout the pilot, with seamless integration of the various teams and equipment working aboard Esvagt's Albert Betz SOV resulting in a wider weather window for marine survey and underwater inspection operations, with launch and recovery up to Sea State 3 and data acquisition according to the specified requirements.
“Supported by the great teamwork of everybody on board, the additional personnel, equipment and workflows for managing and using the USV and AUV for marine surveying and underwater inspections blended in well with the overall operations of the SOV, demonstrating that the ‘mothership concept’ works in a live scenario,” said Jan Schmökel, balance of plant engineer, Northland Power.
“Our goal is to utilize assets that are already in place within the offshore wind farm O&M framework in order to improve the availability of marine data and significantly reduce the cost of acquiring it,” said Sören Themann, CEO, Subsea Europe Services GmbH. “Both Autonomous Surveyor and A.IKANBILIS performed well, acquiring actionable data within similar time frames as conventional vehicles including crewed survey vessels and work class [remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV)], both of which are more costly to manage and operate.”
While Subsea Europe Services continues to fine tune and further automate workflows based on the experiences of the pilot project, both Autonomous Surveyor and A.IKANBILIS are available for offshore wind farm deployment right now. Full commercial readiness of a combined turnkey USV/HAUV solution for major projects and permanent mothership deployment is expected by the first quarter of 2024, the company said.
Northland Power is 100% owner of Deutsche Bucht offshore wind farm, which is located 95 km west of Borkum in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Deutsche Bucht has an operating capacity of 252 megawatts (MW), meeting the annual energy needs of 300,000 people and reducing the annual CO2 emissions of Germany by 700,000 tons.