The consortium, led by the University of Oxford and including Imperial College London and University College Dublin, will investigate, along with DONG and its partners, how offshore wind turbine foundations can be designed more effectively in the future.
The research project, PISA (Pile Soil Analysis), is being carried out by an industry working group headed by DONG Energy and involving RWE, Statoil, Statkraft, SSE, Scottish Power and Vattenfall.
PISA is being run under the framework of the Carbon Trust Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA), a UK government supported organisation established to promote offshore wind energy and reduce the cost of energy.
"The cost of energy from offshore wind turbines must be reduced,” commented Bent Christensen, senior vice president of DONG Energy Wind Power. “Therefore, I'm very pleased that we and our working group have succeeded in entering into cooperation with institutions as reputable as the consortium led by the University of Oxford to assist our work on reducing the cost of development and installation of foundations.“
“We expect to find significant savings by trimming monopile sizes and finding new ways of installing the foundations, amongst others. Consequently, we believe a significant contribution can come from this area towards our efforts of reducing the price of offshore wind power by 35-40 per cent by 2020."
Currently, the monopile foundation for a typical offshore wind turbine weighs approximately 600 tonnes and primarily consists of steel. For a wind farm of 100 or more turbines this represents a substantial fabrication and installation cost. The thickness of the steel used for each pile is about 100mm. If this can be reduced, even by a fraction, without compromising the load-carrying capacity and stiffness of the foundation, there will be significant savings made in developing offshore wind.
“The PISA project represents one of the first large scale joint industry investments that the offshore wind industry has made into targeted civil engineering and geotechnical academic research,” said Dr Byron Byrne of the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford.“We are extremely pleased to be leading the academic contributions to this project, which we believe will see significant improvements in the foundation design methods used for future offshore wind developments.”
The working group has entered into cooperation with the University of Oxford for a period of 18 months, with the project commencing on 1 August 2013. The project will provide funding for a range of academic contributions including two full time post-doctoral research assistants and, in the longer term, will result in three PhD projects.
The aim of the working group is to find technological solutions to be implemented in time for the design and construction of the large Round 3 offshore wind projects in the UK. The working group will be publishing their final reports at the beginning of 2015.