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New pile to reduce noise in offshore wind construction

blue hammer

The Carbon Trust has announced the launch of Blue Pilot, a large-scale demonstration project aimed at reducing costs and underwater noise during construction of offshore wind farms as part of the Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA).

The Blue Pilot project will deploy the Blue Hammer, a new type of pile driver developed by Fistuca. The Blue Hammer is predicted to reduce underwater noise levels by up to 20dB, and potentially reduce the fatigue damage during installation on the pile by up to 90%.

Fistuca developed the Blue Hammer back in 2011, after a successful test of a prototype in 2016. Fistuca secured investment to manufacture a full-size hammer, capable of driving the largest XXL monopiles currently available in the market.

The Blue Hammer consists of a large water tank that contains an open combustion chamber. Energy for driving the pile is created with gas combustion that accelerates a large column of water.

Consisting of a large water tank that contains an open combustion chamber, energy for driving the pile is created with gas combustion that accelerates a large column of water.

As the column of water falls back to the bottom of the water tank, it decelerates transferring the energy into the pile. Due to the properties of water, this deceleration occurs over a longer time period than a conventional hydraulic hammer, providing a quieter, gentler but more energetic blow.

According to the Carbon Trust, this could not only remove the need for underwater noise mitigation, but also enable secondary steel to be pre-welded to the monopile before installation, potentially unlocking ‘transition piece free’ designs.

The piling method could also reduce the amount of time and number of operations carried out offshore, and would improve health and safety and result in a significantly lower installation cost.

The project aims to verify these predictions through the installation of a full-size monopile offshore, using measurement equipment and sensors to validate the predicted noise levels and fatigue damage.

The hammer will be tested offshore in Dutch waters during in the summer and high-level findings from the study will be made available later this year.

Fistuca founder and managing director Jasper Winkes said: “We want to help the offshore wind industry to further develop environmentally friendly installation methods and also lower the foundation costs.

“Therefore we are pleased that, together with the leading utilities in the world, the Blue Pilot project aims to deliver the proof that innovations can drive down the LCOE even further. Only collaboration throughout the industry will make this possible.”

Carbon Trust Offshore Wind Accelerator, project manager of the foundations working area Michael Stephenson added: “The Blue Pilot has real potential to impact the levelised cost of energy of offshore wind projects. We are excited to support this project to validate the hammer offshore and to support the integration of industry into the project, which will be vital to its success. It is great to see the whole supply chain involved in the project and collaborating towards the common goal of continuing the cost reduction in offshore wind.”

It is anticipated that the project will enable potential lifetime savings of up to €33 to €40M (£29M to £35M) for a 720MW offshore wind farm.

OWA partners E.ON, EnBW, Ørsted, Statoil and Vattenfall, alongside additional industry partners Fistuca, Van Oord, Shell and Sif are contributing £2.8M (€3.2M) funding to the project.

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