Fibre testing a breeze at North Sea wind farm

07 June 2017

Fluke's OptiFiber Pro has SmartLoop technology to enable the testing of two fibres in a single test.

Fluke's OptiFiber Pro has SmartLoop technology to enable the testing of two fibres in a single test.

Off-shore wind farms provide an attractive location option for generating power, especially in the stormy North Seas off the UK’s east coast.

But they are also complex and challenging for construction and cabling installation projects. Weather and high voltage carry significant risk factors and contractors need to be wary when working on such projects. 

One example here is provided by Twistnet Communications which worked with a North Sea wind farm that has not been named.

Established in 2000, Nottinghamshire-based Twistnet specialises in the installation, testing and certification of fibre optic, structured, and voice cabling systems. 

It was called to provide testing and certification services that required a technician to bi-directionally test links inside a high voltage electrical substation where all the communication and electrical cabling come together from the wind turbines in an onshore facility. 

Given the fact that the average capacity for wind turbine projects is between 150MW and 500MW, the risks for onsite technicians are significant. A full health and safety induction was required for a Twistnet technician to test inside the electrical substation, and the cost for such certification can rise above £500 per person. 

On the wind farm project, Twistnet was required to test upwards of 400 fibre links bi-directionally. The standard way to do this was to test it from one end, and then walk the OTDR tester to the other end. For this particular job, a technician would need to do that at least 800 times, which would prove time intensive and costly.

On top of this, a day would be needed to complete the induction, thus adding to the time commitment.

But by using what it described as “innovative” new technology from Fluke Networks, Twistnet said it was able to simplify how its technicians work, and help improve safety while reducing costs. 

It deployed Fluke’s OptiFiber Pro with SmartLoop technology. This enables the testing of two fibres in a single test, eliminating the need to travel to the far end of the connection. According to the manufacturer, this patent pending process automatically separates the two fibres for individual pass/fail analysis, display, and reporting. 

Using the device meant Twistnet was able to borrow a wind farm technician who could take the place of one its team inside the substation. The wind farm technician was given quick training on installing a patch lead.

Twistnet also shared what would be required to test each link bi-directionally. Communicating using two-way radios, its team guided the wind farm technician to work his way through moving a patch lead and testing each link.

“That allowed us to save money by not having to train one of our technicians and get the job done in a timely way,” said John Marson, MD, Twistnet Communications. “We were able to save about four man days and more than £2,000 working onsite using SmartLoop on this one project.”