Suction Bucket Foundation Could Reduce Offshore Wind Energy Costs

The set-up costs of offshore wind farms could be drastically reduced thanks to a new piece of technology that has been called the ‘suction bucket’ foundation. The bucket is a means of anchoring offshore wind turbines and has been developed by Universal Foundation of Denmark.

An industry trial worth around £6.5 million and hosted by the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) will test the new bucket foundation. The project will be jointly funded by the Carbon Trust and the Danish Government along with Statoil (as the lead partner), Statkraft, EON, DONG Energy and Universal Foundation.

It is planned that the trial will take place during August to September 2014.

Innovative Offshore Wind Design

Universal Foundation Suction Bucket

Image: Universal Foundation

The design of the foundation means that the heavy pile-driven installation is removed. This high impact process is responsible for the majority of the environmental damage caused through sonic vibrations and disruption to the ocean floor.

Instead the unit is able to screw itself into the seabed before the bucket component fills with silt and water. This process creates a suction that anchors it and the platform firmly.

The beauty of this process is that it is completely reversible so that when it comes time to remove the foundation it is a relatively simple process and the entire unit can be redeployed elsewhere.

The developers of the suction bucket foundation, Universal Foundation, will work with North Sea wind energy companies Statoil, Statkraft, EON and DONG Energy as well as a Danish university. The test sites will be located within the Dogger Bank, Hornsea and Dudgeon offshore wind farms in the OWA area.

Lower Cost Implications

Should the testing of the suction bucket be successful and its use become a standard in the way offshore wind turbine platforms are installed it could save developers millions of pounds. It is a clear way in which the cost of offshore wind energy can be reduced over the next decade.

In fact, Carbon Trust has estimated that using the new foundations could reduce the cost of energy by 10% for the 2,500 offshore wind turbines that are expected to be deployed.

Torgeir Ramstad of Universal Foundation said: “We are very pleased to be working jointly with key stakeholders to demonstrate the potential of this unique technology, which we believe will bring substantial cost reductions to future offshore wind farms. Not only are we able to install in a wide range of soil conditions, carrying the largest turbines in deeper waters, we can accomplish installation of turbines immediately following foundation installation thus entering the production phase much faster – These are just a few of the key benefits of our value proposition.”

This innovative new design has come directly from an international competition run by Carbon Trust seeking ways to lower capital costs of installing offshore wind power. Universal Foundation was one of the four shortlisted finalists in the competition.

Another of the finalists, the Keystone twisted jacket foundation has also been demonstrated in 2011.

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