Offshore wind turbines
Ongoing Project

Propelling the Future of Offshore Wind

Driving faster adoption of clean, renewable offshore wind energy - reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Project summary

The Challenge

Challenges in the design, manufacture and control of wind turbines could lead to higher consumer costs and overreliance on non-renewal energy sources.

The Approach

Collaboration between institutions and industry partners focussed on real industry challenges and the high-level skills needed to grow the sector.

The Outcome

Our research is resulting in more innovative, longer-lasting wind turbine models, leading to lower costs and greater adoption of offshore wind energy.

Lead academics

Funded by

Project partners

The Challenge

Operations and maintenance activities form a significant portion of offshore wind farm running costs and can have a major impact on the cost of energy.

Considerable improvements have already been made to monitoring and operations and maintenance activities. It is estimated that the cost of energy from offshore wind farms is now one quarter of what it was in 2009, thanks in part, to advancements made from research collaborations like the Prosperity Partnership. However, challenges in the design, manufacture and control of wind turbines continue to evolve as wind farms grow in size and expand to deeper waters. These challenges could lead to higher consumer costs and overreliance on non-renewable energy sources.

The research at the University of Hull addressed specific challenges in design, manufacture and control of wind turbines but working with colleagues in other research groups often inspires new ideas and approaches. The close collaboration with the industry partners ensures the work remains focussed on real industry challenges and aligns to wider needs of the sector. It also provides great opportunities for wider collaboration and helps develop the future high-level skills needed to grow the sector.
Professor Jim Gilbert

Professor James Gilbert

Professor of Engineering

The full research team

  • Dave Bould Senior Project Representative, Ørsted

  • Dr Arwyn Thomas Industrial Principal Investigator, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy

The Approach

The £7.7 million partnership between the Universities of Hull, Durham and Sheffield and two global energy companies, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Ørsted, is contributing significantly to making the production of offshore wind energy more economical and sustainable through innovation in advanced technologies.

This collaboration has made vital improvements to offshore wind turbines, which could help them generate more renewable energy and reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. As part of the collaboration, which included several projects at each university, a team of researchers in Hull’s School of Engineering, led by Professor James Gilbert, has developed methods to monitor the manufacture of wind turbine blades to improve quality and reduce waste.

Propelling the Future of Offshore Wind
Modern wind turbines are massive structures that, ideally, should last for the entire life of an offshore wind farm without needing replacement or significant maintenance. Replacing a structure of this size in the harsh offshore environment is a very costly and time consuming exercise that results in significant amounts of lost electricity generation. Overall, improvements in health monitoring, operations and maintenance helps us to continually drive down the cost of offshore wind energy – savings that are passed on to the consumer.

Dave Bould

Senior Project Representative, Ørsted

Key points:

  • The partnership was funded by the UKRI Prosperity Partnership programme, which specifically aims to support research into real-life problems and issues identified by our industrial partners.
  • Outputs of the project can be quickly adopted into the research and development and production strategies of the offshore wind sector.
  • This collaboration led to the development of methods to monitor the manufacture of wind turbine blades to improve quality and reduce waste.

The Impact

These advancements, along with research being carried out at Sheffield and Durham universities, will help ensure that manufacturers can have better control over the manufacturing process, improving yield and ensuring that offshore wind turbines are operating more efficiently and continue operating for much longer periods of time.

This in turn will help to reduce the UK’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources and enable a greater percentage of the UK’s overall energy usage to be provided by renewable sources. The technology can also help introduce new turbine models more quickly helping expand the deployment of offshore wind turbines to meet government and industry targets.

The key benefits:

  • The research will reduce the cost of producing offshore wind energy making it more reliable and sustainable.
  • The UK will benefit from affordable, sustainable energy.
  • This will reduce the reliance on non-sustainable sources.
  • It is estimated that the cost of energy from offshore wind farms is now one-quarter of what it was in 2009, thanks in part, to advancements made from these types of partnerships.
This collaboration allows Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy to steer the University to apply its excellent track record for innovation towards real-life issues facing the industry. It helps to focus the research into areas that are far more relevant and which will have much more immediate, positive impacts. This, in turn, ensures that our graduate and postgraduate researchers develop the right skills to enter industry and help meet the current skills shortage.

Dr Arwyn Thomas

Industrial Principal Investigator, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy

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