Developing a novel foundation to secure floating renewable energy turbines


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This is one of two research projects that explore how we can improve offshore renewable energy generation. The University of Melbourne is the home institution for this project. View the SJTU-based partner project.

This project aims to advance the understanding of pile-soil interaction and propose a new design approach for pile foundation.

The main objectives of this project are to:

  • Fully develop the novel foundation concept through fundamental theoretical derivation, advanced numerical finite element modelling and rigorous geotechnical centrifuge modelling.
  • Observe the performance of the novel foundation system from the centrifuge modelling by spinning the soil sample at 100 times the earth's gravity to maintain stress similitude as an in-situ condition.
  • Optimise the foundation system by conducting systematic numerical finite element analyses to simulate the foundation response under long term environmental loading.
  • Compile the research outcomes and develop a new calculation tool that can be readily employed by offshore engineers to predict the response of the novel foundation system.

The details

Australian marine renewable energy sector remains underdeveloped, impeded by the high costs to install wind and wave turbines. Over 40% of the expenditure lies in the foundation solutions to secure the turbines. Developing more economic as well as efficient foundations in our marine environmental conditions is the key scientific challenge to tap the immense renewable energies, especially in deep waters. This project aims to develop such a geotechnical solution by methodically examining a novel foundation system to secure the game-changing floating turbines, through the close collaboration between the teams at UoM and SJTU.

Whilst the partner team in Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) is mainly focusing on advancing the understanding of the behaviour of monopile foundations subjected to cyclic loading, the University of Melbourne (UoM) team will develop a novel foundation to secure the next generation of floating wind and wave turbines. The idea of this novel foundation system is based on the concept of ‘hybrid foundation’ with a helical pile connected to an external caisson, combining the individual advantage, i.e. great resisting capacity and stiffness to horizontal and moment loads from the caisson and significant transient vertical uplift resistance from the helical pile.

Expected to remarkably reduce costs and provide a viable geotechnical solution for floating turbines, this foundation system will be fully developed in this project, through rigorous numerical finite element modelling and advanced centrifuge testing. This novel foundation, with a great potential to be commercialised, is expected to contribute to securing the game-changing floating turbines, which will be required in our deep-water regions as the traditional fixed turbines can only be used in <50m water depth.

This project will be achieved based on the close collaborative consortium between UoM and SJTU, which will be further strengthened through this project. The analytical studies, centrifuge tests, numerical modelling in the scopes of this project are designed to take full advantage of both sides’ excellent expertise, research environment and the available technical and financial support. Out of the 4 research scopes listed above, the novel foundation concept development, optimisation from numerical modelling and new calculation tool development will be conducted based in UoM. The centrifuge tests will be carried out by using the world-class centrifuge at SJTU by the UoM PhD student co-supervised by the team at SJTU. The PhD student will also work closely with CI Ye during the one year period of visiting to implement the advanced soil model into finite element package ABAQUS.

The graduate researcher on this project is: Behnam Norouzi

Supervision team

University of Melbourne supervisor:
Associate Professor Yinghui Tian

Shanghai Jiao Tong University supervisor:
Professor Guanlin Ye

First published on 29 August 2022.

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