Academic Consortium enters joint venture with DONG Energy

The academic consortium, led by Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science and including Imperial College London and University College Dublin, will investigate, along with DONG Energy and its partners, how offshore wind turbine foundations can be designed more effectively in the future. This work is a unique research and development project aimed at reducing the cost of energy from offshore wind turbines.

The 18-month 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). Findings will be published early 2015.

Bent Christensen
Mr Bent Christensen

Bent Christensen, Senior Vice President in DONG Energy said: “The cost of energy from offshore wind turbines must be reduced. 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”.

Byron Byrne
Dr Byron Byrne

Dr Byron Byrne, from the Department of Engineering Science at Oxford, said: “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. 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”.

Wind TurbineCurrently, 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, DONG said.

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.