UCD Earth Institute

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Mainstream Renewable Power and UCD Earth Institute research


  • Company:Mainstream Renewable Power
  • Objective:Analysing the functionality of innovative offshore wind turbine foundations. 2011 and on-going
  • Outcome:Cut costs and build wind farms further offshore

Putting Wind farms on firm foundations

UCD Earth Institute members have been commissioned by world-leading renewable resources company, Mainstream Renewable Power, to analyse the performance of a prototype foundation being used in a large scale turbine wind farm in the North Sea. Located 100 km off the coast of Yorkshire, the 6GW Hornsea Wind Farm is a joint venture between Mainstream and Siemens Project Ventures.

On completion it is expected to be capable of providing power to some three million homes, equal to approximately 4% of the UK’s total electricity demand. With turbine mast foundations typically accounting for up to 30% of total capital expenditure, the hunt is now on to find cheaper approaches that will also allow development in deeper waters further offshore.

The UCD Earth Institute team, led by Dr Kenneth Gavin, is responsible for analysing the performance of the new “twisted jacket” prototype foundation which was one of four finalists out of 104 entries in the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator competition.

The prototype uses less steel, is quicker to install and has other technical advantages over conventional “monopile” foundations. When Mainstream’s Head of Offshore Engineering, Bernard Casey, was looking for a technical partner to specify instrumentation and analyse the large volume of data collected, he turned to Gavin and his team at the UCD Earth Institute. Dr Gavin, a lecturer in geotechnical engineering in the UCD School of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering, is an internationally recognised expert in this field.

With financial support from Enterprise Ireland, the UCD team put a variety of structural instrumentation on the jacket ahead if its installation on site in October 2012. The UCD team was able to replicate wave loads on models at its test site in a disused quarry in Blessington, Co. Wicklow.

Dr Gavin says the project also benefitted from the input of his colleague in UCD Earth Institute, Professor Frederic Dias also in UCD School of Mathematical Sciences, one of the world’s foremost wave modelers.

Dr Gavin is enthusiastic about the potential benefits of the twisted jacket foundation design, which is aiming to reduce capital expenditure costs by 15% to 20% and make it possible to develop wind farms further offshore than is currently feasible. For UCD, he notes, there are also massive development opportunities in the collaboration with Mainstream in the field of data collection skills for example.

Mainstream’s Bernard Casey is equally enthusiastic about the interaction with UCD. As a UCD graduate, he says
Mainstream puts a high value on the professionalism of the UCD Earth Institute and the exceptionally high quality of its research.

“The quality of the [UCD] publications cited within the industry leave you in no doubt as to its international reputation,”

Bernard Casey, Mainstream