Danish wind power company Ørsted has teamed up with the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford to investigate ways in which to optimize wind turbine foundations which could result in significant cost reductions for wind projects overall.
Not everything in the clean-tech industry is as sexy as solar panels and wind turbine blades — sometimes you need a lot of concrete. The reality is, the foundations of an offshore wind farm account for a significant part of the overall costs. As a result, Ørsted (formerly DONG Energy) is working together with a number of universities to help improve the design and performance of offshore wind farms. For example, Ørsted is currently working with Durham University, and a new agreement signed this week will see it begin working with the University of Oxford focusing specifically on offshore wind foundation design.
Announced on Tuesday, Ørsted and University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science finalized a five-year research agreement to optimize the design of foundation structures for offshore wind turbines, building on existing relationships inside the UK academic sector.
“We’re excited about this agreement with the University of Oxford, a world leading institution, which will help us better understand how we can optimise the design of wind turbine foundations,” said Christina Aabo, Ørsted’s Head of R&D at Wind Power. “This partnership will enable us to further mature our foundation designs to support even bigger turbines in even deeper waters, lowering costs and risk level at the same time.”
The research to be conducted will focus on developing, extending, and embedding new geotechnical design ideas into existing offshore wind engineering methods, working specifically on cyclic loading — an important aspect of safe turbine design focused on stress distribution, a vital component for deeper water and larger turbines. Specifically, cyclic loading is the repeated loading of stress on a structure, in this case the turbine foundations caused by the action of the wind and waves.
“This exciting new phase of collaboration with Ørsted will put the next generation of offshore wind farms on more secure and cost-effective foundations through robust design methods for cyclic loading,” added Byron Byrne, Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford. “This will be challenging but essential if the cost of offshore wind energy is to be further reduced.”
As mentioned, Ørsted has been working with academia in the UK, including the groundbreaking Pile Soil Analysis (PISA) project which was led by Oxford University researchers and included others from College London and University College Dublin. Completed back towards the end of 2015, PISA was the most thorough testing of offshore wind turbine piles ever.
“We’re very pleased with the test results, which confirm that traditional design methods in these soils are very conservative,” Alastair Muir Wood explained at the time, Lead Geotechnical Engineer at DONG Energy and Technical Manager for the PISA Project. “The results indicate that in these site conditions there may be opportunities for savings identified by reducing the quantity of steel in the foundation. In other words, there’s a savings potential, that will contribute to reducing the cost of electricity.”