The high-voltage submarine cable market is, by all definitions, a niche market with few purchasers and even fewer manufacturers and installers. However, the demand for these products is rapidly moving beyond the traditional role of high-voltage submarine cables connecting islands to nearby national grids. The usage of high-voltage submarine cables for grid interconnections and connecting offshore wind farms to nearby landmasses is on the rise and, according to a new report from Pike Research, submarine transmission cable projects will increase from just over 60 worldwide in 2011 to more than 350 cables by 2020, placing significant pressure on the existing industry supply chain.

“Only a handful of manufacturers in the world are capable of producing and installing high-voltage subsea power cables,” said Clint Wheelock, Pike Research president. “Our analysis indicates that the limited supply chain for cables is not prepared to meet the increased demand that offshore renewable-energy production and grid interconnection will place on the market. The constraints on the supply chain don’t stop with the manufacturers. The site engineering companies and cable-laying ships required are also highly specialized and also in limited supply.”

Pike Research forecasts that Europe will continue to be the leading region for submarine electricity cable deployments, representing nearly three-quarters of all projects by 2020. Asia-Pacific will be the next largest regional market, followed by North America. 

The clean-tech market intelligence firm also stated that the deployment of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) projects will outpace high-voltage alternating current (HVAC) cables in the coming years. While the first undersea cables deployed were HVDC, many of the deployments through the 1990s and 2000s have utilized HVAC for ease of integration into the power grids, making the technology cheaper to deploy. But recent advancements in HVDC cables and equipment have brought on a rash of new HVDC cable installations, and these systems also can address projects that handle longer distances, higher voltages and deeper routes than HVAC.

The report, “Submarine Electricity Transmission,” examines the market opportunity and demand dynamics for submarine HVDC and HVAC power cable projects around the world. Visit www.pikeresearch.com to download a free executive summary of the report.