Improving biodiversity for submarine cabling

15.10.2020

Looking at the big picture – the energy transition and the achievement of the European climate targets – there is no alternative to expanding offshore capacity for the generation and transmission of North Sea wind power. For that reason, both the Dutch and German governments have set ambitious targets for offshore expansion, which the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is gradually implementing and has even exceeded for its German North Sea control area. In the individual case, however, each offshore construction and operational measure obviously has an impact on the valuable North Sea and Wadden Sea ecosystems. As TenneT strives to apply and monitor nature-friendly solutions in all of its offshore grid projects, the TSO is now conducting pilot tests with stone coverings of submarine cable intersections.

When the TSCNET shareholder lays submarine cables, e.g. currently for the high-voltage connection of the Hollandse Kust (zuid) wind region, the cables sometimes cross with existing oil and gas pipelines. In such cases, the cables protrude above the seabed and are usually covered with a layer of granite to protect them. To replace granite with alternative solutions that promote biodiversity, TenneT has launched a pilot project in collaboration with the offshore specialist company Van Oord. In this project, different types of stones are deposited at cable crossings to investigate which of these stimulates biodiversity best. In total, the pilot involves twelve locations in the North Sea. In the case of the first six, recently laid submarine cables already cross existing oil and gas pipelines. Another six intersections will follow during the construction of the Hollandse Kust (Zuid) connection in 2021.

On 14 October, the different stones were loaded onto Van Oord’s special vessel to be placed at the cable intersections in the coming weeks. Among them are small calciferous stones from a marble quarry, which are placed at three of the six cable intersections. Comparison with the other three intersections without calciferous stones will allow to assess the difference in the type of marine life developing at these intersections. “Our expectation is that the calciferous stones will ensure that various benthic species will find it easier to nest here and that a different habitat will emerge at these sites. Over the years, ‛artificial reefs’ can emerge at these sites in the North Sea, where plants and small creatures can settle,” explains Saskia Jaarsma, Head Offshore Developments and Large Projects Offshore at TenneT.

TenneT has launched a pilot project to promote biodiversity at submarine cable intersections (picture: Van Oord)

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> See TenneT press release (html)

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Deep Dig-It starts work for Hollandse Kust (zuid) grid

24.09.2020

Hollandse Kust (zuid), an offshore wind area in the Dutch North Sea, is located a good 20 kilometres off the coast of the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is installing the related offshore grid to connect the new offshore wind farms in the area via two offshore platforms and submarine cables to the onshore high-voltage substation that is being built in the Maasvlakte industrial and port area. The jacket for the first of these two offshore platforms has recently been installed and the offshore connection project is now making further progress with the start of the laying of the submarine cables on 22 September.

Four 220kV AC cables with a total length of 42 kilometres each are to be installed in the seabed, of which the first two to the Alpha platform will be laid this year. The other two to the Beta platform will follow in 2021. First, the two cables were brought ashore to the planned Maasvlakte substation via direct drilling. Thereupon the TSCNET shareholder started the marine installation, with the first ten kilometres of the route from the coast at Maasvlakte being extremely challenging. Over this distance, the cables cross the entrance to the port of Rotterdam – Europe’s busiest cargo port – and thus need to be buried more than 5.5 metres deep. For this purpose, the contracted specialist company Van Oord uses its Deep Dig-It trencher, an enormous remote-controlled trencher.

The Deep Dig-It is one of the largest and most powerful devices in its class. The trencher weighs 125 tonnes, is more than 17 metres long, well over 8 metres high, and 11 metres wide. With its enormous power it can bury cables deeply even in very hard ground. The trencher is controlled from an offshore installation vessel equipped with a crane to lower and lift out the high-performance machine. The Deep Dig-It moves unmanned over the seabed and creates a deep trench for the cables by liquefying the seabed. Simultaneously, the Deep Dig-It inserts the cables into the trench and seals the seabed afterwards. With work progressing well, Tennet expects the 1,400MW Hollandse Kust (zuid) grid connection to be completed in 2022.

TenneT has started the laying of submarine cables for the Hollandse Kust (zuid) grid connection (picture: Van Oord)

Linkup
> See TenneT press release (html)
> Watch TenneT video of the Deep Dig-It at work (YouTube)

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