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New wind farms will need new foundation technology

Current offshore foundation technology cannot be used for the next round of offshore wind farms, engineers warned this week.

Developing a new foundations system will be critical as Round 3 development sites are in deeper waters than previous wind farms.

“Steel monopiles will not be suitable in 30m depths, there’s a certain point at which they no longer work”, said Atkins Energy managing director Martin Grant.

Most offshore turbines around Britain are in water which is 20m deep or less. Yet 70% of the new raft of wind farms will be in depths of 30m or more, with some in water up to 60m deep.

Technology challenges

The Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the government to help reduce carbon emissions and commercialise low carbon technologies, is working to develop the technology necessary for Round 3 wind farms.

“It’s a completely different engineering challenge to embed these turbines. New technology is needed for deeper water conditions and larger, heavier turbines,” said Carbon Trust senior technology acceleration manager Benj Skyes.

“The big challenge is ensuring this new technology is commercially viable.”

Four new prototypes are being trialled by the Carbon Trust.


Meanwhile, consultant Gifford is pioneering a large concrete gravity base structure which will be ferried to site by submersive transport and an installation barge (NCE 26 November 2009).

Dutch firm Suction Pile Technology has put forward a self installing foundation solution.

US consultant Keystone Engineering is developing a spider-like tripod with three supporting legs angled around a central pile in a twisted jacket. Another US firm, marine consultant Glosten Associates has proposed a floating wind turbine which comprises a buoyant hull, tendons and an anchorage system.

Foundations currently account for half the capital cost of offshore wind farms.

Readers' comments (3)

  • I produced a concept design for a foundation system. As the design developed it became obvious that what the Carbon Trust wanted was a company driven solution. Hence we have four designs that depend on imported technology. My modular design could have been perfectedt in UK universities, built in UK shipyards from UK sourced materials by a UK workforce. The timescale imposed by the Carbon Trust together with their imposed conditions have driven this project abroad. Why didnt they just ask for quotes for a design and build solution in the first place?

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  • I too produced a new concept and I could also improve three out of the seven designs. I don't think the competition rules has allowed for this kind of situation. Carbon Trust were not looking for innovative ideas that did not progress from conceptual stages.

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  • Anyone still having the competition package info and subsequent addendums, I would appreciate if you could forward to me, Many thanks.

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