Underwater robots have been secured for the US’s first floating offshore wind farm

Autonomous underwater robots have been contracted to survey the site of the US’s first floating offshore wind farm.

In December, Norwegian energy giant Equinor won a 2-gigawatt (GW) lease in Morro Bay, California, in the first-ever offshore wind lease sale on the US West Coast. It was also the first US sale to support commercial-scale floating offshore wind development.

The Morro Bay project has the potential to generate enough energy to power around 750,000 US households.

But first steps first: Equinor just signed a contract with marine robotics company Ocean Infinity to conduct a site investigation survey using multiple AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) at the same time at Equinor’s floating offshore wind lease area.

AUVs are underwater robots that operate independently of humans, and they can go to depths that human divers can’t. They’re modular so they can be bespoke and feature such things as sonar, depth sensors, and cameras. They’re either programmed or controlled by remote operators that tell the AUV where, when, and what they should sample. The data that AUVs collect is retrieved by the operators when they resurface.

The data that Ocean Infinity’s AUVs collect at Morro Bay will help Equinor develop and refine its floating offshore wind farm design and will also inform the site assessment and construction and operations plans.

Shawntel Johnson, director of business development at Ocean Infinity, said, “AUVs in scale are the perfect tool for [the US West Coast], providing not only great data quality advantages over towed arrays, in water depths spanning from 974 to 1317 meters (about 4,507 feet), but also huge efficiency over wide areas.”

The UAVs will be deployed at Morro Bay in February 2024.

Read more: California governor calls for a massive 20 GW of offshore wind by 2045

Photo: Ocean Infinity


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