A U.K. government grant of £4 million will be used to create remote inspection and repair technologies for offshore wind farms using robotics and autonomous systems. These will be used to inspect the condition of subsea power cables, identify problems early and ultimately, and extend their lifespan.

The U.K. government has set ambitious decarbonization targets, increasing the present 5GW generated by offshore wind farms to 40GW by 2050. The cost of achieving these targets has, until now, focused on the capital outlay for wind turbines, but budgets have largely ignored the operation and maintenance of wind farm assets, including subsea cabling.

“By integrating technologies, such as autonomous underwater vehicles and advanced sonar technology, we will gain a new insight into the condition of these subsea assets,” said Dr. David Flynn, director of the Smart Systems Group at Heriot-Watt University. “The U.K. is leading the world in the development of remote inspection technologies, which also have significant applications in the global oil and gas decommissioning market. As the U.K. works towards ambitious decarbonization targets, we expect this industry to be worth more than £2 billion ($2.5 billion) per year by 2020.”