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Innovative 'suction bucket’ offshore wind foundation trials scheduled for summer

Alternative low-cost foundations could cut energy costs by 10% over the next decade, developers say.

The Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) is joining forces with Statoil, Statkraft, E.ON, DONG Energy and Universal Foundation, in close co-operation with Aalborg University, to undertake installation trials of the Universal Foundation ‘suction bucket’ offshore wind foundation. The £6.5m joint industry trial will be executed in Q3 this year, and will see installation of the Universal Foundation ‘suction bucket’ together with a reference bucket at a number of different locations at the sites of three planned major offshore wind farms in the North Sea.

The Carbon Trust has estimated that new lower cost foundations could save developers up to a billion pounds on the basis of new foundation designs, driving a 10% reduction in the cost of energy from 2,500 offshore wind turbines expected to be deployed over the next decade. The foundations will be installed at each site, then withdrawn and moved onto the next site for testing. 

Jan Matthiesen, cirector of the Carbon Trust’s OWA, called the 'suction bucket' foundation a "really great innovation for the industry, as you can install it faster and at lower costs than conventional steel foundations. That is good for developers and for consumers, as it means it brings down the cost of offshore wind energy.

Jan-Fredrik Stadaas, technology manager for Offshore Wind at Statoil, agreed, adding that the project demonstrates how costs to develop energy can be reduced through industry collaboration and partnering. What's more, he said, it represents a "de-risking activity, moving technology further and securing future cost reductions in the offshore wind market. We hope to see results from this project benefit the whole offshore wind industry, especially in the UK market.”

Universal Foundation has teamed up with Fred. Olsen Windcarrier to perform the trials at sites with differing soil conditions to determine the potential range of use for the new foundation which, according to the company, is quicker to install and requires less steel than conventional monopile foundations.

Universal Foundation’s ‘suction bucket’ was one of four novel low cost foundation designs that were shortlisted following an international competition run by the Carbon Trust in 2009 to discover world leading innovation in this area. Two Universal Foundation ‘suction buckets’ are currently installed at Dogger Bank, a Round 3 offshore wind site, where they support two meteorological masts. In addition, an offshore met. mast foundation was installed in Denmark in 2009, and a 3MW turbine on a Universal Foundation has been fully operational in Frederikshavn since 2002.

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power