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Cable ties

Optimising the design of undersea power cables

Published: 26 July 2021

Around the world, there are powerful connections between countries that you wouldn’t know were there. Shallowly buried under the seabed are thousands of kilometres of high voltage cables, transferring power between countries and bringing power from offshore windfarms onto land.

As the requirement for renewable energy grows, so does the role – and cost – of these copper and aluminium cables.

A multidisciplinary team of Southampton researchers is running a series of interlinked projects and consultancy activity to optimise the design of these Marine High Voltage Cables (MHVCs) to maximise power transfer and save money.

This could lead to a better understanding of how climate change may be affecting ocean bottom temperatures and, in turn, biological and geochemical processes at the seabed – which are critical to the health of the oceans.

MHVCs for a typical one-gigawatt windfarm cost about £400m to design and install, with operation and maintenance costs of several millions of pounds every year.

Justin Dix, Professor in Marine Geology and Geophysics, explained: “MHVCs primarily operate two ways. Either transferring power between one country and another, for example, hydroelectric power from Norway to Denmark or nuclear power from France to England, or used to bring power from our proliferation of windfarms to land.”

If you can better understand the environment the cables are in, and therefore effectively model how heat dissipates away from the cables, you can optimise cables and reduce costs significantly.

Justin Dix - Professor in Marine Geology and Geophysics

Read the full story in Re:action, the University’s research and enterprise magazine.

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Professor Paul Lewin

Professor Paul Lewin

Professor Paul Lewin is head of school within ECS at the University of Southampton.

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