Published: 16 December 2014

Surrey research lays foundations for more cost-effective wind power

New research by Professor Suby Bhattacharya, published by IET, highlights ways of reducing the cost of foundations for offshore wind turbines, pointing to a viable alternative to nuclear power.

As the demand for green energy increases, the offshore wind power industry is expanding at a rapid pace around the world, with the UK leading the way. However at present, the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for offshore energy is considerably higher than for nuclear power (around £140/MWh (Megawatt hour) compared to £92.50/MWh).

Professor Bhattacharya, who leads Surrey's Geomechanics Research Group, was invited by the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) to write an article outlining the Group’s research into ways of reducing the cost of foundations.

He explained, “Foundations typically represent between 25 and 34 per cent of the overall cost of an offshore wind turbine, which means there are major financial implications attached to the decisions made. For example, it’s been reported that one of the main reasons the development of the Atlantic Array wind farm did not go ahead was the expensive foundations.”

The University’s new SAGE (Surrey Advanced Geotechnical Engineering) Laboratory enables researchers to carry out advanced element testing of soil, increasing our understanding of the long-term performance of these major infrastructures so that their operating costs can be minimised.

“This research is very important in reducing the LCOE in order to meet the government’s Renewable Energy target of 15 per cent energy from renewables by 2020,” said Professor Bhattacharya.

“While fracking (hydraulic fracturing) of shale gas, oil and gas may currently be cheaper than that of offshore wind, these resources are finite and will be expensive to recover with time. Wind resources, on the other hand, are free. It’s been reported that offshore wind will be cheapest by 2020 thanks to various innovations achieved through research – and Surrey will play a significant part in this effort.”

He added, “I was delighted to be invited to write this article by IET, which demonstrates that the efforts of our research group are being recognised.”

‘Challenges in Design of Foundations for Offshore Wind Turbines’ is published in the IET digital library, a global hub for science, engineering and technology content.


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