Geotechnical engineering plays a significant role in offshore renewable energy development. Although the following relates to offshore wind it easily translates to wave and tidal energy, where loading conditions are similar. The foundation, including materials and installation, can account for up to 35% of the total installed cost of a wind turbine. Significant savings can be found by optimising the foundation design and developing new foundation methods, including installation approaches which dispense with the need for high cost bespoke installation vessels. Research is needed to drive down costs and to develop more robust designs. This work must be closely integrated with structural design and manufacturing processes, such as those described above, to ensure production of low cost but high volume designs. There are two different design conditions, depending on the structural configuration chosen. For a mono structure the applied load is dominated by moment loading of the foundation, whereas for the multi-footing structure it is transferred as compression/tension in the foundations. The research questions focus on the effect of these different loading conditions on the geotechnical design, but there will be significant implications flowing through to structural design and fabrication processes. In addition, the driving design condition is cyclic loading of the foundation, the stiffness of the foundation and accurate assessments of structural fatigue. A number of research topics are suggested below, with many being suitable for study in the sponsoring company, in the collaborating University or a combination of both. They would make use of numerical analysis, experimental investigation and theoretical development, and would transfer knowledge from the academic arena directly into industrial practice. Topics that will be pursued include:

  • Piled foundations
  • Suction caisson foundations
  • Innovative foundation concepts
  • Structural design and long-term foundation performance
  • Instrumentation and monitoring of foundations
  • Assessment of foundation design in layered soils
  • Optimised site investigation and characterisation
  • Foundations for floating structures

Research in Geotechnics will be led by Oxford University. Please contact Professor Byron Byrne for further details.