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Harsh environment

Large systems in extreme harsh environments

Testing facility meets energy industry's current needs

Multi-MW energy infrastructure such as wind farms, but also other energy assets as solar energy plants, oil & gas applications (LNG for example), etc… are more frequently installed in remote locations. This is either due to the presence of certain resources at these remote sites such as high and stable offshore wind resources in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, high solar radiation levels in desert locations, and the presence of oil and/or gas in (arctic) offshore locations. With respect to wind energy and due to the ‘not in my backyard’ effect the trend is to install wind turbines at sea, or at very remote location up north in Scandinavia were the population is less dense and wind resources are similar to those at sea. The disadvantage of these locations is the presence of extreme climatic conditions in certain seasons. This means the systems and machinery need to be capable to withstand and operate in these harsh conditions, which can be extreme and challenging for the electro-mechanical and electric equipment used in the industry. 


Climatic system testing on large components to prove the reliability and performance of energy infrastructure is a core topic of the climatic test facility in Antwerp. The large climate chamber installed in 2012 is used to test and validate large and heavy electro-mechanical machinery at extreme climatic conditions. Extreme temperatures (-60°C to +60°C), high humidity, infrared solar heat, and icing conditions can be simulated in a controlled way to get understanding in the survival capabilities and operational limits of components used in wind turbines, solar parks, energy storage solutions etc… In 2019 the facility also came in the picture by a leading oil & gas enterprise to test and validate a large and heavy swivel for offshore conditions. 


IBN explores potential of offshore energy technologies

Sirris has been leading the Innovative Business Network (IBN) Offshore Energy since early 2017 and this innovation cluster entered its 3rd successful working year in 2019. IBNs have been set-up by VLAIO, in the IBN Offshore Energy the economic and innovation potential of offshore energy technologies such as offshore wind energy, wave energy and tidal energy are explored in close collaboration with Flemish companies. The innovation cluster is managed by the OWI-Lab partners Sirris, UGent and VUB and overseen by the steerco-companies Jan De Nul, Parkwind, Deme, Engie-Lab, Engie-Fabricom, and OCAS. In total 55 partners are clustered in the IBN and the goal is to set-up RD&I activities - technology workshops and information sessions, conferences, fact-finding missions - that focus on emerging innovation and market trends in this sector. Based in the findings in those actions innovation projects are ideated and developed towards concepts and innovation proposal.

Very active working year

In 2019 special attention was made towards finding synergies between the Belgian offshore wind innovators and the UK based offshore wind innovators. Early 2019 an innovation gathering between Belgium and UK was set-up in Ostend in collaboration with the ORE Catapult to learn from each other about ongoing RD&I activities, and match our cluster companies among each other.


Also, the IBN Offshore Energy has been supporting the conference session at the Belgian Offshore Days in March, this time the seminar focused on servitization and digitization trends in offshore wind O&M. In summer, special attention went to learning more about the emerging technology of floating wind power. A fact-finding mission to Ferrol was organized to visit the construction yard of one of the first multi-MW floating wind turbines. 


The IBN Offshore Energy initiated and supported more than 20 collaborative RD&I projects so far in 2019, ranging from fundamental research to applied research and bilateral innovation collaborations with its members. Also in 2019 a new roadmap has been worked out with the steerco-members focussing on the emerging innovation topics for the coming five years throughout the value chain of offshore wind energy specifically. 


Sirris presents state-of-the-art cases linked to wind turbines operating in extreme climates

In the beginning of 2019 Sirris participated at the Winterwind conference up North in Sweden (Umeå). This dedicated conference about the ongoing R&D in the field of wind energy in cold and icing climates is yearly organized in the North of Sweden, typically including a site visit to a cold climate wind farm. The team of Sirris operating the large climatic test facility in the Port of Antwerp presented two cases on the lab and full-scale testing of wind turbine components linked to cold climate topics. A first case presented dealt with the cold start-up testing of prototype gearboxes of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, a leading OEM in the wind energy sector. The other case presented the validation cold start-up testing of transformer pump systems conducted between Sirris and Efaflu, a Portuguese SME. 


In April the wind energy programme within Sirris participated at WindEurope, the largest worldwide wind energy conference and exhibition in Bilbao. Under the R&D collaboration umbrella OWI-Lab involved engineers and researchers from Sirris and VUB participated to this world leading conference and presented their latest research at the conference and poster sessions. In partnership with the Portuguese company Efaflu a research poster was presented to the international wind energy R&D community about the cold start transformer pump testing.