GLASGOW — The biggest offshore wind ‘living lab’ in the world will 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 Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.
The £2.8 million ($3.4 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. It is being driven by a consortium led by the ORE Catapult, along with the expertise of Microsoft, Vilicom, JET Connectivity, XceCo, Associated British Ports, Accelleran and Satellite Applications Catapult.
The 5G Testbed will allow technology providers to test and demonstrate their equipment in real-world conditions, with access to reliable, high-speed communications. It aims to kickstart a digital revolution in offshore wind operations and maintenance (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.
Many new digital solutions rely on high-fidelity wireless data communications that 5G provides, and while 5G is being installed in new wind farms, these are not available for wider development and testing. This project will create the 5G infrastructure that provides an accessible and operationally integrated Testbed for new technologies that are essential to the roll out of offshore wind globally.
The project will be funded with £1 million ($1.2 million) from the Innovate UK Cyber Physical Infrastructure fund, an expected £1 million from the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and industry match funding.
Ben George, head of Smart Operations and Maintenance (O&M) at ORE Catapult, said, “This 5G Testbed is a hugely exciting development for O&M in offshore renewable energy, as it establishes the core communications infrastructure for the biggest offshore wind ‘living lab’ in the world. The testbed will demonstrate the benefits of new remote digital solutions that require high bandwidth, low latency wireless communications—aimed at making O&M safer, greener and more effective.
“It will provide a real-world development, demonstration and test zone for robotics and autonomous systems, remote sensors, wearable technology, cybersecurity, zero emission vessels, smart ports and aquaculture that will drive the digital future of O&M. This gives UK innovators and technology developers the upper hand as they bring new products and services to market, including for export into an offshore wind sector that is booming around the world."
In the UK, offshore wind capacity is predicted to grow from 13 GW to 50 GW within the next decade, and globally the rapid investment in offshore wind will create huge opportunities for the UK wind industry. 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.