Faults in UK Western HVDC Link Cable Highlights Need for Prognostic Health Management in Critical Infrastructure

The Western HVDC Link is a 262 mile DC power transfer connection between Western Scotland and North Wales designed to transfer up to 2.2GW of Scottish renewable power between the regions.

HVDC Link Map

OFGEM, who regulate the UK market for electrical energy, have announced they will be carrying out an investigation into breaches of licence conditions. This has resulted from a number of faults that have left the interconnector unable to transmit power, ultimately leading to costly constraint payments being made to renewable generators who were left unable to export their clean energy. The environmental cost of this type of occurrence is that dirtier energy sources must then be employed in order to supply energy demand with the financial cost ultimately being passed down the chain to the energy consumer. Find the original OFGEM press release here.

The shutdown of major infrastructure such as the HVDC link highlights a strong need to improve availability and de-risk such assets through better understanding, monitoring and prediction of the asset health. This can be achieved through the principles of Prognostic Health Management (PHM) which is one of the core research themes at Heriot Watt Smart Systems Group and researchers have been working on this topic for some years across wide ranging asset types.

In particular, researcher Wenshuo Tang as part of the Smart Systems Group, has directed research effort towards the area of prognostic capabilities specifically for subsea cables. Through the use of advanced data collection and analysis tools the Smart Systems Group has shown the potential to improve the quality of information available to decision makers in asset maintenance and fault prediction. Allowing faults to be anticipated ahead of time to allow actions to be taken to mitigate fault development. This is particularly important for critical infrastructure such as the Western HVDC link on which society relies.

The information provided by advanced techniques in Prognostic Health Management can be utilised to improve uptime and reduce operating costs for the entire asset chain, benefitting owners, operators, insurers, and ultimately the consumer, environment & wider society.

See Below for Smart Systems Group Subsea Cable Publications.

W. Tang, D. Flynn, K. Brown, R. Valentin and X. Zhao, “The Application of Machine Learning and Low Frequency Sonar for Subsea Power Cable Integrity Evaluation,” OCEANS 2019 MTS/IEEE SEATTLE, Seattle, WA, USA, 2019, pp. 1-6.

W. Tang, D. Flynn, K. Brown, R. Valentin and X. Zhao, “The Design of a Fusion Prognostic Model and Health Management System for Subsea Power Cables,” OCEANS 2019 MTS/IEEE SEATTLE, Seattle, WA, USA, 2019, pp. 1-6.

W. Tang, K. Brown, D. Flynn and H. Pellae, “Integrity Analysis Inspection and Lifecycle Prediction of Subsea Power Cables,” 2018 Prognostics and System Health Management Conference (PHM-Chongqing), Chongqing, 2018, pp. 105-114.

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