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EU mathematicians to develop logistics computer tech to cut offshore wind costs

French and UK uni logistics experts to develop computerised algorithms to reduce costs in building offshore wind farms

French and UK mathematicians aim to develop computerised algorithms to reduce offshore wind costs

EU mathematicians are looking to develop computer technology to improve logistics and cut costs in building offshore wind farms. Mathematicians in the UK and France are aiming to develop computerised algorithms that wind farm operators and their suppliers can adapt in order to efficiently arrange their logistics during the construction and mainteance of wind farms.

Transporting, assembling, and maintaining wind turbines can make wind farm development expensive. Experts in logistics from the Universities of Portsmouth, Le Havre and Plymouth are looking at reducing such costs and have won EUR 1.8m funding for the project, as part of a European Union initiative.

Dylan Jones a mathematician at the University of Portsmouth said: “Considerable savings could be made if logistics were better used to focus specifically on transporting wind farm parts. The deliverables from this project will not be physical models of wind turbines, but rather computerised algorithms that wind farm operators and their suppliers can adapt in order to arrange their logistics activities in an efficient way.”

Jones said the project will consider the whole life-cycle of the wind turbines, from manufacture and installation through to operation, maintenance, and disposal. Optimisation algorithms, such as scheduling and vehicle routing, will be developed in order to reduce the through life cost of the wind farm. The project will also consider the interaction of the wind farm with other maritime users such as the fishing and leisure industries.

The researchers will examine ways of coordinating port maintenance, driving down logistical costs, and providing suitable transportation to and from the wind farms which, combined, are likely to cut costs.

The University of Portsmouth said a problem in wind turbine transportation is that most container ports are not set up to handle turbine parts, which are much larger and more irregularly shaped than usual cargo. Some rotor blades reach 75m-long, over three times larger than the average 20m container. A huge challenge for the industry is dealing with the logistics of these parts at the lowest possible cost.
 
“A large Jacob barge used to transport the parts to the offshore site and to assemble them, costs as much as EUR 200,000 a day to hire,” said Jones. “If the wind farm parts can be packed on to the barge in a better way or sent round the wind farm sites in a more efficient way, then the barge is needed for fewer days and considerable savings can be made.”
 
“We are hoping to make wind farm energy a more viable and affordable option in the energy market,” he said.