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Blue Accelerator project puts North Sea test facility in the market

Have you recently visited Ostend and made a stroll along the dike and the coastline? If so, you must have noticed the yellow container popping out of the North Sea! This mysterious looking metal box is called 'Blue Accelerator', a versatile nearshore test facility.

Let's chat with EnerGhentIC colleague Efrain Carpintero Moreno, senior researcher at the Coastal Research Energy Group, Ghent University. Efrain is involved in the Blue Accelerator project nearby the harbor of Ostend


Project title

Blue Accelerator project

Project period

01/05/2018 - 30/04/2022


EFRO (European Fund for Regional Development)

Project type

EFRO Goal 2: academic support for test infrastructure

Involved UGent professors

Prof. Peter Troch


Efrain, what is Blue Accelerator, and why should we care?

“If you stand at the breakwater of the port of Ostend, you can clearly see the yellow container popping out the North Sea: that’s Blue Accelerator. The Blue Accelerator (BA) test facility is a versatile, nearshore and pre-approved test facility with moderate metocean conditions (the combined wind, wave and climate (etc.) conditions as found on a certain location). It allows testing below, at and above the sea level at TRL (technology readiness levels) 4 up to 7. BA is owned and operated by the Regional Development Agency West-Flanders (POM West-Vlaanderen), which also holds a 15 year operational license.

Testing a new device at Blue Accelerator

The Blue Accelerator project kicked off the commissioning and initial use cases for this test facility. The project consortium consisted of local knowledge institutions like VIVES, VITO, VLIZ (Flanders Marine) and, of course, the Coastal Engineering Research Group, Ghent University, headed by professor Peter Troch."

Okay so there is the open water test facility, which is clearly visible from the Ostend harbor breakwaters, and the project. Could you tell me more about the solutions the project wants to offer?

“Sure. The main purpose of the Blue Accelerator test facility is to provide developers with a test environment in not too harsh but certainly representative offshore conditions. The Blue Accelerator project's main purpose was to put the Test Facility in the market, under the coordination of POM West-Vlaanderen. Therefore, initial use cases (both industrial and academic) needed to be identified, but also services supporting these use cases, such as 4G or even 5G internet connection."

Which role did Ghent University play in these supporting services?

“Characterizing the exact wave and hydrodynamic conditions is important to make a digital model of the actual physical site, a so called digital twin for waves. Therefore the measured wave data (wave rider buoys) was used to develop a numerical model, which was nested in large scale wave models. Here we wanted to have a grid as fine as possible, to be able to model what is happening in the vicinity of the Blue Accelerator. Therefore we used SWAN for the long term wave climate, and SWASH for short term predictions. The latter came however at high computational cost. Together with my colleague Panagiotis, we also applied our in-house developed MILDWAVE software and model, typically used for wave propagation inside in the harbor."

Potential cases for Blue Accelerator below, at and above sea level

And how were the results?

“We were able to make good predictions for the wave propagations and wave induced currents on a 40 by 40m grid, with a 5 year back-casting dataset, especially for normal wave conditions. However, in storm conditions, the nonlinear effects are difficult to model on such a fine grid with acceptable computation time. That is the classical trade off in simulation: balancing computational time and thus cost versus increased accuracy.“

Are there other objectives you helped achieve?

“Yes, I also wanted to engage academia and researchers through my results and potential collaboration, but due to COVID, a lot of conferences and physical meetings were impossible, making networking for me difficult, as I arrived in Belgium during Covid restrictions.

Nevertheless, the overall consortium managed to have very interesting reference cases , like drone testing. There was also a recent major upgrade, with high speed and high bandwidth dat transfer, supplementary safety provisions."

"The Blue Accelerator project's main purpose was to put the Test Facility in the market. Therefore, initial use cases (both industrial and academic) needed to be identified, but also services supporting these use cases, such as 4G or even 5G internet connection."

Who will benefit from your and the consortium's work?

“The end clients who need support for operational wave conditions, can use our models as a service. For instance, depending on the required resolution level, we can assist with an appropriate model selection. From there on, we can derive the so called sea states or wave spectra, and their probability of occurrence. We can also help assisting the best scale at which a prototype should be tested near BA. This information is important for any full scale design of any structure at sea. “

Looking forward, what can we expect from the future developments at Blue Accelerator?

“In the future we might develop a full digital twin. Also some very interesting projects are coming up for floating PV. Therefore, BA might be upgraded with an onshore grid connection. Lastly, long-term measuring campaigns will offer valuable long-term probabilistic insight. In any case, the future looks bright, especially in combination with our Coastal and Ocean Basin, which is operational since Q1 2023. “


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