To address the increasing energy demand while aligning with climate action goals, the Australian Government is implementing various initiatives to transition to cleaner alternatives for power and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

These include investing in infrastructure for renewable energy sources like solar and wind, accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, and gradually decommissioning coal power stations. Additionally, there are policies to support energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses, such as grants for energy-saving upgrades and incentives for sustainable practices. These efforts are crucial for Australia to meet its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 while ensuring a reliable and sustainable energy supply for the future.

That’s what makes renewable energy sources like windfarms so important. Already, wind represents more than 30% of Australia’s renewable energy, with more than 100 onshore windfarms in operation. The next step is to establish the country’s first offshore windfarms, which can produce more energy due to stronger, more consistent winds at sea.

The government is currently exploring six potential locations for these offshore windfarms. Like any other industry, they will need reliable, high-speed connectivity to power their operations. Getting that connectivity isn’t easy when you’re in the middle of the sea. But a private mobile network can help.

Why private mobile networks are ideal for offshore windfarms

A private mobile network uses dedicated infrastructure designed and deployed for exclusive use by a specific enterprise. Only devices approved by the enterprise can connect to the network. Compared to Wi-Fi, a private 5G network offers up to 10 times the coverage area, higher speeds with lower latency, and seamless handovers between access points for no dropped connections.  Such networks provide secure connectivity right from the start of a project to support the construction phases and the subsequent operations and maintenance of the wind farms.

Using just a few radio sites, a private 5G network can provide secure, reliable voice and data coverage throughout the construction and operational areas of an offshore windfarm. In turn, this connectivity can enable a variety of innovative applications to solve windfarm operators’ main challenges, including:

  • Employee health and safety monitoring – Wearables with automated man-down detection and location positioning sensors can keep workers safe, as can smart glasses that enable hands-free operations.
  • Augmented and virtual reality – AR/VR headsets can help train crew members to work in dangerous conditions, without putting them at unnecessary risk as they get up to speed.
  • Drones – Unmanned drones can perform structural assessments of turbine towers and blades, avoiding the need to work at heights.
  • Environmental sensors – Collecting data on meteorological and ocean conditions can help improve energy production forecasts and assess impacts on marine ecosystems.
  • Condition monitoring – Sensors can collect real-time data on the condition of sophisticated turbine components and systems to inform predictive maintenance routines that reduce component failure rates and replacement costs.
  • Remote technical assistance – From any location on the windfarm, staff can easily access enterprise applications, log issues to ticketing systems or contact onshore specialists for support.
  • Performance optimisation – Smart cameras and sensors can collect data that can be used to optimise the performance of turbine yaw/pitch control systems and increase energy yield.

How BAI supports offshore windfarms

BAI provides a turn-key, end-to-end private mobile networking solution: starting with consultation and assessment, continuing through the design and build phases, then into ongoing management and operations. Windfarm operators benefit from a single point of contact for everything network-related so they can focus more attention on their core business functions.

We already have experience providing connectivity to offshore windfarms in the United Kingdom through our sister company, Boldyn Networks. In Scotland, the Moray East windfarm comprises 100 turbines and three offshore substations. Boldyn Networks designed and deployed its private network, providing coverage during installation followed by ongoing management and maintenance.

Boldyn Networks also brought connectivity to Ørsted’s Hornsea 2 offshore windfarm, which is spread over 400 square kilometres of the North Sea — making it the largest in the world. The private mobile network it installed ensures crews going to the windfarm always maintain optimal connectivity, from onshore to on-vessel to onsite, with no dead zones.

Connectivity for a sustainable future

A private 5G network can power more than just Australia’s onshore (and first offshore) windfarms. Its use cases have the potential to cross over to other utilities as well, including solar, hydro and other types of power plants — so we can meet the growing demand for energy in a more sustainable way.

Contact us to learn more about how we can bring 5G connectivity to the most challenging industrial environments.