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University of Dundee secures £1M research grant for offshore foundations

Cheaper, more sustainable and more effective foundation solutions for offshore renewables projects are expected to be delivered by a major new research project being led by the University of Dundee.

The £1M initiative is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will look at the use of screw piles for offshore schemes.

“The UK has challenging targets for expansion of energy from renewables with the potential for over 5,000 offshore wind turbines by 2020,” said University of Dundee senior lecturer in civil engineering Mike Brown, 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.”

According to the university, the research is necessary due to the practical limits and environmental impact of monopile foundations and the high material demands of gravity-based structures. In a statement, the university has said that 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 is set to focus on making it easier to deploy screw pile foundation solutions for offshore renewables and develop greater understanding of pile behaviour at water depth experienced on current schemes and look at how this changes as projects move to deeper water conditions.

“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 Brown.

The project is being led by the University of Dundee and includes contributions with the Universities of Durham and Southampton and also private sector partners Cathie Associates, Screwfast Foundations, SeaRoc Group and Soil Machine Dynamics UK.

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