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Firm develops technology to transform renewables sector


April 30 2015


A St Asaph business developed “world-leading” technology that will transform the renewable energy sector.

Acuity Products, based at Glyndwr University’s OpTIC Centre, produced innovative ultrasound equipment which monitors the manufacturing of underwater power cables used on windfarms.

Commercial director Tony Hepton says the “explosive growth” of the industry in the North West region is bringing major benefits, not only in terms of jobs for offshore contractors but for smaller firms in the supply chain.

At a cost of £1million per kilometre, the cables will remain on the seabed for up to 25 years; electrical failures or damage run to several millions of pounds in cost to repair, so assuring their condition prior to deployment is vital.

Acuity – which also has an office in Manchester - has come up with a way of resolving the issue; Ultrascreen uses the team’s years of knowledge and expertise in the sonar and military arenas to convert electrical signals extracted from algorithms that pass on information about the health status of the cable layers during manufacture.

“Ensuring the quality of the cable before it goes into the water requires expertise of the highest order,” said Tony, from Rhyl.

“We have developed a world-leading solution for using ultrasound technology to monitor the hugely expensive power cables as they are being made in factories throughout Europe, the USA and Asia.

“They have to lie on the seabed for up to 25 years without an electrical failure, since the cost of lifting them out of the water using ships hired in especially to repair them can runs to many millions of pounds for even the simplest repair, so this is a critical part of the process.”

He added: “In terms of UK projects such as the East-West connector between Ireland and North Wales, we have been instrumental in scanning these cables looking for fundamental weaknesses in construction.

“You might liken it to a pregnancy – today it is highly unlikely for any woman not to attend her 12 week scan just to assure herself that all is going well. Our hope is that one day all cables will be made this way.”

Acuity Products was formed in 2008 to bring together the expertise of the various founders in order to commercialise a unique, novel and effective approach to detecting micron level flaws in high voltage electrical cable.

Building on the previous fundamental research in earlier work, the company has advanced the technology beyond recognition with three years of intensive development, both of software and mechanical devices, which has led to successfully implementation after proving trials of a first product at a major European cable-manufacturer.

“We are now in a position where the product is gathering interest because of its high-value to the industry – it is providing essential new knowledge for the long-term condition of these power cables,” said Tony.

“The offshore wind sector is booming as renewable energy becomes more and more of a factor in the UK and across the globe. We look forward to playing a part in that growth.”

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