How robots can help build offshore wind turbines faster ৷

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(Bloomberg) – Ukraine’s invasion has sent the United States and Europe on a combat mission to abandon Russian fossil fuels. The series focuses on accelerating the zero-carbon alternative by reducing political and financial barriers. Sign up here to get the next story sent to your inbox.

Trying to attach a million-dollar, 60-ton wind turbine blade to the base is challenging in any situation – even an angle within a fraction of a degree can affect the machine’s ability to generate errors. Now imagine trying to do this in the middle of the North Sea, one of the most windy places in the world, swell with waves all around you. It’s like tying a thread to a kite on the beach and then trying to do it through the eyes of a needle.

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This is the challenge facing Western leaders who want to milk their economies from Russian fossil fuels. For some countries, creating more offshore air is one of the most effective ways to replace that dirty energy. Ocean-built turbines benefit from stronger and more consistent wind speeds. They can avoid the biggest hurdle in building a wind farm: neighbors who don’t want wind farms to ruin their vision.

Read more: How to burn fast transitions in clean energy

The UK in particular allocates huge portions of seabed to developers and provides generous subsidies, helping to improve technology and supporting the industry at low cost. Since the first British project was completed in 2000, turbines have become more than five times as powerful and the cost of wind-generated electricity from fossil fuels or nuclear plants has dropped. By the end of the decade, Prime Minister Boris Johnson aims to increase the UK’s offshore wind capacity to 50 gigawatts, more than three times the current fleet.

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Achieving this goal requires accelerating the development of the $ 33 billion industry. According to Aurora Energy Research, it currently takes 15 years to complete a large offshore wind project in the UK. Simplifying the permitting process can cut some of that time, but it can still take a decade.

The real time saver will install the turbine faster. Installing gigantic structures requires highly specialized and expensive vessels, known as jack-up vessels. When they arrive at the site of a new wind turbine, a moving foundation descends to the bottom of the ocean to bring the ship out of the waves so that it can operate without pushing back and forth. Under ideal conditions, this can take less than three hours, but if the current is strong, it can take up to 20 hours. Floating ships that do not need to be lifted can complete up to 50% faster than those commonly used today, according to the Clean Energy Research Group BloombergNEF. “You can make installations more efficient,” said Amanda Ahl, a BloombergNEF analyst. Since ships do not have to carry heavy structures used to tie up to the bottom of the ocean, they can carry materials for more turbines at once. This means less cruising to shore which can sometimes take up to 10 hours.

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Assuming that the use of floating ships makes the precise task of assembling wind turbines more difficult. That’s where the robot comes from.

X-Laboratory, an organization founded by former European Space Agency researcher Andre Schলিille, sells software and robotics systems to wind turbine builders that allow them to remotely control the ship’s giant cranes. The technology that the fox helped develop – primarily to help conduct research from Earth to other planets – could take years to set up a wind farm at sea.

The Jan De Null Group, one of the world’s largest installers of offshore winds, has begun adopting the technology. The company has transferred some of its activities to ships that are floating while they work. The first ship, the Les Allies, will be operational later this year and will be able to carry three times the weight of a similar vessel, which will also have to carry equipment to attach to the ground.

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Read more: The world will spend $ 1 trillion on offshore winds by 2031 As a start, John de Knoll’s new ships will use the X-Laboratory system to control a huge claw that will help compensate for any unexpected movements in the water. The technology can reduce the total installation time of a wind farm by more than 25% due to its ability to operate in wind environment. For now, the claw will only be used for the foundation of wind turbines, not the more sensitive task of attaching the blade. The company is hopeful that robotic technology will meet the challenge of working at sea on floating ships. “A few years ago it was thought that this was too difficult to overcome,” said Gert Weimis, head of offshore installation analysis at the company. Nails “can be a game changer.”

Schiele recalls the celebration in 2015 when an astronaut grabbed a joystick on the International Space Station and removed a four-wheeled robot from a lab in the Netherlands. It was a breakthrough for space exploration. But he quickly began to think of other applications, which led to the creation of X-Laboratory and wind turbine construction systems.

“How can we go to Mars?” It’s great to be able to solve challenges like this. “But the climate question is a much bigger challenge.”

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