A MAJOR project to determine the future of offshore windfarms is to be carried out by a Scottish university.
The University of Dundee will lead the research to find out whether cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and more effective foundations can be developed for the renewables industry.
The project, funded by a £1million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will look at the use of screw piles for offshore installations.
These are foundations which are screwed into the ground and are widely used onshore, one example being to support motorway signs and gantries.
Dr Mike Brown, Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at the University of Dundee, who is leading the project, said: “The UK has challenging targets for expansion of energy from renewables with the potential for over 5000 offshore wind turbines by 2020.
“The necessary move to deeper water will increase cost and put greater demands on subsea structures and foundations. There is already cost pressure on the offshore sector as people wait to see if it can be made more affordable, so we really need to find better solutions for how we develop capacity.
“Screw piles are potentially very attractive as a lower cost and more environmentally friendly option. However, there are significant challenges to be addressed.
“If we are to develop them for offshore use they will likely be larger than those used onshore, and face different pressures, so our work will look at whether they can meet the performance and efficiency issues.”
Currently, the main foundation solutions being considered for offshore wind installations are driven piles, large monopiles or concrete gravity-based structures (GBS). Driving of piles in large numbers offshore causes concerns over plant availability and impact on marine mammals.
The research has the potential to make it easier to deploy screw pile foundations for offshore renewables. This project will develop foundations able to deal with current water depths and will provide understanding of the behaviour of piles as water depths and the demands on the foundations increase.
“By harnessing the installation and performance benefits of screw pile/anchor technology, the results of the project will hopefully contribute to an overall cost reduction in electricity generated by renewable means and increase the public’s confidence in the future viability of this energy source,” said Dr Brown.