Proud to see us being featured in an article on one of Belgium’s biggest news sites, VRT

Our CEO, Roel Vanthillo gave an interview about the importance of cable monitoring and to prevent cable sabotage in offshore wind farms, focused on the Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology. 

The article

The Ghent company Marlinks has technology to monitor energy cables running under the sea to detect defects and can also use it to detect sabotage. The company already monitors about 300 kilometers of cables from offshore wind farms. “A broken cable can put a wind farm out of business for four months,” says CEO Roel Vanthillo.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen recently called for better protection of vulnerable infrastructure in the energy sector to prevent sabotage. She made this appeal after leaks occurred in two key gas pipelines in Scandinavia. Von Der Leyen is not only referring to gas connections, the cables that bring electricity from offshore wind farms to land under the sea are also vulnerable. The Ghent company Marlinks is specialized in monitoring the cables to detect technical problems. It can expand the technology to detect and even prevent sabotage.

“We are now monitoring about 300 kilometers of energy cables under the North Sea,” explains Marlinks CEO Roel Vanthillo. “These are cables that connect offshore wind turbines and also cables that bring the energy to land.” The technology is now only used to detect or prevent defects. “Through very precise measurements, we can see where there is an electrical fault or where there is a danger of a cable being hit by an ocean vessel.” That kind of monitoring is important for quick action.

How does it work?

The company collects acoustic data through the fiber optic cable embedded in the power cable. “Each piece of cable becomes a virtual microphone that listens to its surroundings and transmits data. Every 10 meters we read that data. The microphones have a much greater range than the human ear; they ‘hear’ very high and low tones,”. The measurements allow kilometers of cables to be read out quickly. Using complicated algorithms, the company analyzes all the data, which involves terabytes per day.

 “We hear how the cables move, what the wave action is and where marine animals swim”

The technology can “hear” ships sailing and also help to easily guide them to a site of failure to make quick repairs. “We hear marine mammals swimming and can measure water pressure – and thus wave action. In this way, we can even hear submarines approaching silently,” Vanthillo explains. “Monitoring for sabotage seems a logical next step.”

Better prevention than cure

Marlinks is not the only company in the world with the technology, but it is the only Belgian player. “It is only a matter of time before a government or an energy manager also starts thinking about monitoring these cables,”. After all, now that more and more will be deployed on wind energy, the importance of guaranteeing that supply is also growing. “Better prevention than cure!”

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