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Nearly 100 international delegates congregated in Hamburg last week for the first technical conference led by Universal Foundation, focused on knowledge sharing for offshore wind suction bucket foundation technology.

The technical workshop brought together industry specialists, developers, turbine suppliers, certifiers and approval bodies, engineering, fabrication and installation contractors, authorities as well as academic experts to discuss and share experiences in an open forum and reflect on lessons learnt in the evolving offshore wind sector as well as experiences that can be taken from the well-established oil and gas sector.

“The workshop was designed to encourage open sharing which is something we firmly believe that we should be doing more of as an industry,” said Torgeir Ramstad, Managing Director of Universal Foundation Norway. “The industry must find new ways of working together if we are to reach the required cost reductions, which are essential for ensuring a sustainable industry and to address the increased technical challenges with turbines being installed further offshore in deeper waters.”



The Universal Foundation technology is an innovative application of suction bucket technology learned from over 30 years of experience in the oil and gas sector. The technology is a hybrid design combining the benefits of a suction anchor, monopod and gravity based foundation once installed.

Delegates heard from Tor Inge Tjelta, Geotechnical Specialist from Statoil, regarding their vast experience with suction bucket technology dating back to the 1980s and many delegates were surprised to hear that more suction buckets of different kinds have been installed globally, than monopiles in the offshore wind industry.

“The basic concept behind Universal Foundation is not new technology, the innovation is in its application to offshore wind foundations and the controlled installation system which ensures that the turbine can achieve true verticality, eliminating the requirement for a separate transition piece with challenging grouted connections, and reducing the number of marine operations,” said Otto J. Nielsen, Managing Director of Universal Foundation (DK).



The foundation technology is already proven, with two foundations installed last year for met masts on Dogger Bank in the UK, as well as a near shore turbine demonstrator installed in Frederikshavn in Denmark in 2002 and another met mast installation at Horns Rev in Denmark in 2009.

The Carbon Trust, together with industry partners Statoil, Statkraft, E.ON and DONG are supporting the next steps to commercialisation of this next generation of WTG foundation, with the trial installation demonstration project which will test the installation of a Universal Foundation suction bucket at a number of sites in the North Sea; proving the technology in a wide range of seabed conditions and also demonstrating the noise free installation and reverse installation procedure, which allows for complete removal of the foundation.

According to a presentation made by RWE Innogy, the Universal Foundation is seen as the most mature technology of all deeper water foundation concepts. The engineering house Grontmij added that according to results from a large rotor study, the Universal Foundation is well suited for the world’s largest turbines in water depths from 25-55m.w.d.

The next major step for Universal Foundation is to secure a full scale demonstrator site for a large turbine in deep waters. This is a challenge facing the whole industry right now and Universal Foundation urge developers, turbine manufacturers and governments to support technology innovation and open up opportunities for test sites if we are going to reach set cost reduction targets.

The two day event held at the Radison Blu Hotel in Hamburg was an invaluable learning opportunity for all involved and is something which Universal Foundation is keen to repeat in due course.

Photo caption: Suction technology demonstration by Tor Inge Tjelta from Staoil.

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