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Connecting tomorrow’s power-generators and power-users

Connecting tomorrow’s power-generators and power-users

Bartłomiej Zgryzek, vice-chairman and member of the board of directors at TELE-FONIKA Kable S.A., talks to the BPCC’s Michael Dembinski about the plans of Poland’s national champion in the power-cable sector and the firm’s strategic importance in energy transformation

The Polish government is planning offshore wind as a major component of its programme to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from energy generation. The official energy policy for 2021-2040 sees the installed capacity of offshore wind reaching 5.9 GW in 2030, rising to 11 GW in 2040. Does this sound feasible? What needs to happen for Poland to hit its targets?  Does TFKable see this as an opportunity?

Fast-tracking the development of offshore wind is now front and centre on global agendas to provide a low carbon and reliable source of energy. The worldwide market is set to grow nearly eight-fold over the next decade, from 28GW of installed offshore wind-generation capacity today to around 218GW of installed capacity by 2030. Most European governments are aiming for a net-zero carbon footprint in their energy systems by the middle of the century. It is extremely important to understand the technical requirements for wind projects and to assess the current state of technology and the supply chain's ability to deliver these critical components.

TFKable has considerable experience in the implementation of projects in the offshore wind-energy sector. Since 2008, we have worked closely with our partner JDR Cable Systems, which used our secure power cores to support the cable designs and to bring innovative technologies to the market. Our collaborative supply-chain relationship with JDR started with 33 kV cable sizes used on early UK offshore wind projects such as Greater Gabbard in 2007 or the London Array in 2009, enabling us to work together on improved design features such as water-sealing of conductors and high-quality insulation systems suitable for subsea applications. In 2017 the shareholder of TFKable acquired JDR, adding JDR’s subsea cable and umbilical product knowledge and capabilities to TFKable’s extensive industrial and high voltage onshore cables businesses. During the past few years and with the increase in offshore wind turbine power outputs, cable sizes have increased further. In 2016 TFKable together with JDR launched their 66 kV subsea array cables. We supplied the 66 kV cabling for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay, developed by Vattenfall.  JDR has also been leading the industry in the supply of dynamic cabling for floating offshore-wind projects, such as the Floatgen demonstrator at the Sem Rev test site, 22 km off the coast of Le Croisic, France, and also the Windfloat Atlantic project in Portugal, the world’s first 66 kV dynamic array power cables. 

It is also important that at each innovative step in offshore wind transmission evolution we have collaborated with developers and other partners in the deployment of new technology.

In our domestic market – from the very beginning – we have also shown an active interest in activities aimed at developing offshore wind energy.  We have done this by establishing cooperation with industry associations such as PTMEW and PSEW and taking part in numerous seminars and conferences on the subject of wind energy development, where we exchange knowledge and experiences from global implementations. We are also closely observing the actions currently being undertaken to optimise the use of Polish businesses in the supply chain, which, from our experience, will translate into measurable economic benefits and job growth.

By acquiring the manufacturing facilities of JDR Cables, a UK manufacturer of power lines connecting off-shore turbines with the national grid, TFKable has become a major global player in offshore wind energy. Where do you currently see the biggest markets/potential markets for your products? Where will future growth be coming from?

Floating wind is one of the vital next technological frontiers in offshore energy.  As with fixed-foundation wind, the emerging floating application presents another major opportunity for supply-chain companies with experience in offshore.  The UK’s offshore wind industry has benefitted from the relatively shallow continental shelf of the North Sea, enabling fixed foundations for turbines in water depths of 30 to 50m.  However, a large proportion of the world’s continental shelves extend away from land for an average distance of 65km but at depths of 100-200m.  These deeper waters are more suited to floating offshore wind power plants than fixed, and so floating wind will be a key part of a truly global low-carbon economy as it will enable coastal towns and cities to use offshore wind to decarbonise their energy systems.

Those willing to collaborate and adapt their products and services to the diverse future needs of offshore energy will also find rewards and opportunities to enable them to grow their business.  With global offshore wind stretch-targets and objectives to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and also with more countries looking to follow this lead and adopt more offshore wind, this really is an exciting time to be working in offshore energy.

However energy is to be generated in future, there will still be a need for cables. This means demand for copper is likely continue to stay strong as national grids are modernised. How do you source copper, what steps can be taken to reduce the negative effects of copper mining on the environment? How are you helping promote sustainability in copper mining?

The end of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 was a volatile period in which the prices of some commodities were changing dramatically. Many specialists have indicated a link between the rapid changes and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Of course, sudden price jumps are very unfavourable for many industries including ours.  This is because non-ferrous metals such as copper and aluminium are used in our production, as they are excellent energy conductors.  These metals have been used in cables for years, and there is currently no other cost-effective alternative.

However, thanks to the good standards of cooperation in the supply chain, which has been developed over many years, and also with a more permanent partnership secured under procurement contracts, we have managed to maintain the continuity of cable production and order fulfilment throughout this volatile period. We are also aware of the key role our suppliers play in helping us to source raw materials responsibly and sustainably. Moreover our sustainable resource-management principle covers the purchase of raw materials from selected suppliers, optimisation of their consumption, as well as recovery, recycling and reduction of the quantity of waste produced and the emission of harmful pollutants to the environment.

We take action along the entire value chain and encourage our suppliers to reduce waste-disposal and processing loses. The circular-economy measures implemented in one of our Polish waste processing plants in Bukowno allows us to reuse production waste.  This is achieved due to our copper recycling technology, wherein the smelting of cable scrap is converted into full-value copper wire, and in which we are able to produce wire rod for new cable structures, retaining 99.5% of raw material purity re-allocate for further use.  In this way we indirectly use natural resources efficiently and economically.

Whatever choices Polish governments take in terms of power generation, Poland's transmission and distributions systems are in poor shape and in need of modernisation. In particular, widespread adoption of solar panels by individual householders – many in rural areas – necessitates the roll-out of two-way distribution systems that can feed energy from prosumers back into the grid. International connections also need to modernised, as well as the grid backbone. How do you see your role in these major projects?

Providing universal access to electricity requires an efficient system that enables its trouble-free generation, processing, transmission and distribution. All devices connected via cables and wires to this system, together with customer installations, form appropriate power systems. Increased requirements in terms of safety and reliability ensure the use of functional solutions in the field of installation assembly. Modern technologies and related methods of arranging installations allow us to identify significant challenges at the design and assembly stage in given structures. As a manufacturer of cables and wires, the TFKable Group has undertaken a number of activities aimed at full compliance with the national and international standards.

Our portfolio includes proven and safe cable design and systems dedicated to the professional power industry, such as the Flameblocker Group: N2XH, (N) A2XH and 2XSLCH - a dedicated line for the assembly of cable routes; cables for laying mechanically: XRUHAKXS, NA2XS (FL) 2Y and A2XS (FL) 2Y; innovative recipes of LSOH mixtures with the addition of hybrid nanofillers for the production of improved flame-retardant cables, SN TFEasylineMVC service cable line system - a comprehensive solution for professional energy, which minimises power-off time during planned repairs or during a power-grid failure; Flameblocker 750 HDXp / HDX – modern halogen-free 750V cables in the Dca fire-reaction class; N2XS (FL) 2Y 1x2500 400kV – an efficient and safe system for electricity transmission; and a portfolio of nearly 18,000 structures compliant with the requirements of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR)

Energy storage is becoming a major technological issue – what to do with excess energy generated by solar and wind energy on sunny or windy days – at present the sheer volume and cost of big-box batteries makes this unfeasible. Do you see any breakthrough on the horizon in terms of energy storage?

This year, TFKable and the Lublin University of Technology, together with MPK Lublin, started cooperation on a project for the construction of modular energy storage for enterprises. The initiative is part of a project subsidised by the NCBR (National Centre for Research and Development), and is to be dedicated to businesses in response to the need to reduce power consumption or use power more efficiently.

The proposed battery storage project is to partially cover the demand for energy and power at times when the maximum loads are applied to the network. For TFKable, this is one of the strategic directions of development and it is a natural complement to our offer dedicated to renewable energy sources, such as medium-voltage cable systems for offshore and onshore wind farms. Importantly, the functionality of this solution will include the possibility of connecting them to a photovoltaic farm, which will reduce electricity losses, and assist in eliminating the need to switch excess power supplies off, which might otherwise result in an increase in voltage in the network. Thanks to this solution, it will be possible to significantly increase the self-consumption rate of photovoltaic and other renewable energy parks.

What new technologies in the field of energy generation and transmission are likely to emerge during this decade? In what areas are TF Kable actively researching and developing (of course that you can talk about!)

TFKable has several projects in its investment portfolio for the coming years.  One of these is the planned investment in a new production plant in the UK.  In line with the current pace of energy transformation, the indispensable driver here is continued investment in the Britain’s offshore wind energy sector. For the planned investment, we have also taken into account the expectations of offshore wind-farm developers, who are seeking to increase the size of offshore wind turbine structures used to generate energy. They need suppliers of submarine cables offering a reliable, specialised range of higher voltage and larger-sized cables in the future.

Our investment is aligned to the British government’s investment priorities to substantially grow the supply chain for offshore wind. We will be developing our new facility in the North-East, creating new jobs in Cambois, Blyth and Northumberland, on a site formerly occupied by a coal-fired power station, this project helping to regenerate the local community. As a result, our investment plan provides for the location of a production facility in the region with the greatest potential, strengthening our position in the rapidly growing – and already the largest – market for offshore renewable energy in Europe. This will further enable exports of high-performance submarine cable to markets in Europe and the rest of the world.

Another example of our new technologies is with the launch of the production of innovative HV and EHV cables in our modern Extra High Voltage Laboratory in the Bydgoszcz plant in north-west Poland. Once completed, our facility will be conducting extensive research in the field of prototyping HV cables and EHV alternating-current cables for higher-rated voltages, as well as developing technological guidelines for their production. This investment will result in the development, testing and manufacture of the highest-rated voltage power cables for the energy industry. These new cable types are an innovative technological solution that increase the efficiency of energy-transmission and distribution networks, increasing the efficiency of transmitting electricity over long distances. This is especially important when connecting wind farms over larger distances, and in doing so ensuring that energy losses are minimised when connecting them to national power grids, ultimately benefitting the energy consumer.

Connect Online 51 issue 51 (146) 2021, British Polish Chamber of Commerce interview reprinted from BPCC Contact Magazine