The development of renewable energy and in particular wind energy has ensured that cost-effectiveness of this technology has increased, whereas this also leads to increasing sizes of wind parks which are located further away from the existing network. As a result, the transport of this wind energy to the end user takes on an increasingly important role, for which the traditional AC or alternating current technology is no longer suitable. The main goal of this project is to make the power system ready for the future development of these offshore grids and to increase the understanding of operating such grids. It focuses on three main fields, i.e., transmission system planning, protection of future grids and control interactions.
Offshore wind developments are taking place quickly, with over 12 GW already installed at the end of 2016 in Europe. This installed capacity is expected to increase over the next decades, with a tripling already by 2020.
To unlock the full potential of offshore wind farms, new transmission technologies such as high-voltage direct current (HVDC) are necessary. Indeed, as compared with the first offshore systems, the sites of new wind farms are located at increasing distances and their installed capacity is larger. Consequently, conventional radial connections making use of AC cables at lower voltages (150 kV) are no longer a technically feasible option and HVDC in either point-to-point connections or offshore meshed grid must be used.
Such an electrical grid will in the long term be rolled out to a large extent using DC technology. Before constructing this grid, a number of challenges have to be addressed. The research proposal of the NEPTUNE project therefore focuses on three axes:
- Planning and rollout of the grid in a cost-efficient and reliable way,
- Reliable protection to prevent grid outage or component damage due to faults,
- Control of the converters to achieve stable grid operation.
In this way, the NEPTUNE project is an essential element to prepare Belgium for the further roll-out of offshore wind energy in the coming decades.
The project also contributes to the development of the necessary knowledge in this sector, which already accounts for 15000 employees in Belgium. The project will be executed under the supervision of Prof. Dirk Van Hertem of EnergyVille/KU Leuven, in collaboration with his colleagues Prof. Jef Beerten (EnergyVille/KU Leuven) and Prof. Erik Delarue (EnergyVille/KU Leuven).
Next to NEPTUNE, two other projects were approved: EPOC 2030-2050 and BREGILAB.
 Wind Europe offshore wind industry key trends and statistics https://windeurope.org/about-wind/statistics/offshore/european-offshore-wind-industry-key-trends-and-statistics-2016/