UK backs Dong for 'suction bucket'

UK government-industry body the Carbon Trust has awarded £6m ($9.9m) to Dong Energy to speed up co-funded development of a “suction bucket” foundation concept for deep-water wind turbines.

The Danish utility plans to install a prototype of the new-look tripod, which is based on a design by SPT Offshore, at its Borkum Riffgrund 1 wind farm off Germany later this year, with a view to moving the jacket into serial production by 2017 for UK Round 3 projects.

The foundation demonstrator will be built by Bladt Industries in Aalborg, Denmark.

“The interest from the Carbon Trust, and the decision to co-fund the full scale demonstration is a great recognition from important developers in the industry of the prospect of this promising new foundation concept,” says Dong vice president Tove Feld.

“Having more developers utilising the suction bucket jacket will benefit optimisation of design, fabrication process and installation logistics and thereby help to drive down the cost.”

Dong sees the suction bucket foundation – which marries a welded tubular space frame with a suction caisson concept commonly used to fix North Sea oil platforms to the seabed – as a key technology in meeting its target of cutting the cost of energy from offshore wind power projects by 40% by 2020.

Borkum Riffgrund 1 was chosen for prototype trials due to its sandy soil conditions, seen as a“highly suitable” test for the new foundation concept.  The flagship suction bucket jacket will be fitted with a state-of-the-art measurement system to feed-back data for performance verification.

E.ON, Mainstream Renewable Power, ScottishPower Renewables, Statkraft and Statoil – which all partnered early development of the design through the Carbon Trust’s cost-cutting Offshore Wind Accelerator scheme – will be given open access to the collected data and “full visibility” of the fabrication and installation of the new foundation design to help in evaluation of the technology for use off Europe.

“Cutting the costs of offshore wind quickly is the greatest challenge facing the industry over the coming few years,” states Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay.

“Having identified that lower cost foundations remove significant cost we are delighted to be working with Dong Energy to take this exciting design forward and sharing the concept with other players in the industry."

Suction bucket foundation designs, which are targeting the coming market for 6MW-plus wind turbines on projects in water depths of 30-60 metres, are under development at a number of companies, including Fred Olsen-backed Universal Foundation, which has had its flask-shaped concept piloted as a foundation for two met-masts at consortium Forewind’s Dogger Bank development.