SMD to Contribute to Offshore Wind Foundations Research Project


September 2015: SMD are pleased to announce that they are set to contribute to a major offshore wind research project lead by The University of Dundee. The project will look to determine whether cheaper, more environmentally friendly and more effective foundations can be developed for the offshore 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 currently widely used onshore, for example, to support motorway signs and gantries.

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 mariScrew fas e mammals. There are also concerns over the limit of practical monopile development and the high material demands of GBS. Screw piles have the potential to overcome these issues and are scalable for future development from current onshore systems which have relatively low noise installation and are efficient in terms of both tensile and compressive capacity.

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.

“The UK has challenging targets for expansion of energy from renewables with the potential for over 5000 offshore wind turbines by 2020,” said Dr Mike Brown, Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at the University of Dundee who is leading the project.

“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.

“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.

“We have a long-history of supporting industrial academic partnerships, said SMD’s Ian Bryan, Business Development Manager for their Trenching, Mining and Renewables business unit.  “Much of intellectual property and many of our product features originate from research, and our customers benefit from the insights these bring into design of efficient and effective solutions. When compared to piling, screw piles offers significant potential benefits such as a reduction in noise during installation and lower costs. We look forward to developing an understanding of how this well proven approach can be adapted at scale for use in the construction of offshore wind farms, and to passing the associated benefits on to our customers.”

The project will also include contributions from the Universities of Durham and Southampton and also private sector partners Cathie Associates Ltd, Screwfast Foundations Ltd, and SeaRoc Group.