Academics from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have won a grant to develop computer models to test the best methods to stabilize and control the motions of the turbine and its semi-submerged support structure.
Wave simulation specialists hope to make offshore wind turbines in deep water more financially feasible by researching the best way to stabilize the floating pontoons they would have to sit on.
Static turbines can be fixed to the ocean floor near the coast but the cost and infrastructure complexities of doing so further out to sea mean they would have to be instead mounted on tethered buoyant platforms – exposing them to high winds and large waves.
Dr Ling Qian, Reader in Computational Fluid Dynamics at the Center for Mathematical Modelling and Flow Analysis at Manchester Metropolitan University, and the lead academic of the project, said: “The UK is a world leader in developing offshore renewable energy technologies and offshore wind turbines hold huge potential for future energy sustainability."
"So we need to develop a floating offshore wind turbine that works in water deeper than 50m, but that leaves the top-heavy turbines exposed to being buffeted by high winds and rough seas even if the buoyant support system is attached to mooring lines anchored to the sea floor,” Qian added.
Based on a code they have developed themselves, Dr Qian and colleagues will use the University’s high performance computer cluster to run a computer simulation of waves interacting with a platform based an existing design for floating support structures.
The design comprises three connected columns 50m apart, creating a triangle frame in which the turbine sits, keeping the majority of the mast above the surface of the water.
It is manufactured separately from the turbines – which are typically 130m high with a blade length of between 60m and 90m – and the two are bolted together on location.