World first as unmanned platform substation unveiled at giant North Sea wind farm

A further record has been claimed at what is set to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, with the unveiling of a revolutionary platform-based substation.

When complete in 2026, Dogger Bank will become the biggest facility of its kind in the world, able to produce enough electricity to power about 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity demand. It is being built some 130 kilometres off the east coast of Yorkshire.

A joint venture between Perth-headquartered SSE Renewables, Equinor and Eni, SSE Renewables is leading on the construction and delivery of Dogger Bank. Equinor will operate the wind farm on completion for its lifetime of up to 35 years.

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SSE has now unveiled details of the world’s first unmanned high voltage direct current (HVDC) offshore substation. The technology will be used to transmit the electricity produced back to shore, demonstrating that it can be sent efficiently over long distances while minimising losses.

Working closely with platform manufacturer Aibel, Dogger Bank Wind Farm will use an unmanned HVDC substation design – a world-first, slashing weight and cost. Upon first installation in Dogger Bank A during 2023, the project’s HVDC facility will also become the largest-ever at 1.2GW, marking a major scale up from the previous industry benchmark of 0.8GW. Picture: Aibel

Upon first installation in the Dogger Bank A phase during 2023, the HVDC facility will also become the largest-ever at 1.2 gigawatts (GW), marking a scale up from the previous industry benchmark of 0.8GW.

Steve Wilson, project director of Dogger Bank Wind Farm, said: “We’ve committed to build this project with record low CfD [contract for difference] strike prices and the associated benefits this provides to UK electricity consumers.

“We will do this by using the latest technologies to ensure we build and operate the wind farm efficiently, while achieving the highest standards in safety. In order to build this complex infrastructure project competitively, whilst introducing a new technical solution here in the UK, the Dogger Bank project team needed to drive a huge step change in design.”

Working closely with platform manufacturer Aibel, the Dogger Bank team were challenged to design the first unmanned offshore HVDC substation in the world.

Removing the need for personnel to stay on the platform meant it was then possible to eliminate elements such as the living quarters, helideck and sewage systems, resulting in a 70 per cent reduction in weight, per megawatt, of the topside compared to previous platforms installed, while leading to cost savings of “hundreds of millions of pounds”.

Jon Kippenes, offshore platform manager for Dogger Bank, said: “Traditional methods have been effective at transmitting electricity from wind farms that are closer to shore, but with Dogger Bank being so far from shore, we chose to use HVDC as it is much more efficient to transfer electricity over long distances.

“As the first project to do this in the UK we were faced with potentially high costs and uncertainty, but by taking learnings from unmanned installation in oil and gas, and working closely with our supplier we have designed an innovative and safe platform with huge reductions in weight.

“This of course lowers the cost for this project, but also sets a new standard for offshore HVDC platforms. The Dogger Bank transmission concept was turned from being the project’s Achilles heel into a competitive edge.”

Dogger Bank A and B is a joint venture between SSE Renewables (40 per cent), Equinor (40 per cent) and Eni (20 per cent). Dogger Bank C is a 50:50 joint venture between SSE Renewables and Equinor.

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