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Steel monopiles “not an optimal solution” to move wind forward - says director

Industry should look to concrete designs as a way to meet government 2020 targets

Focussing on steel monopiles are not the way forward in offshore wind farm development, conference speakers have said

The offshore wind industry should not focus on steel but look to using concrete for turbine foundations to meet 2020 targets, speakers at a global wind conference have said. Speakers at the Global Offshore Wind conference in London said that alternative designs to steel monopiles should be used in future wind projects. 

Rune Rønvik, project director of the UK’s Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm, said that steel monopiles have “weaknesses” and are “not an optimal solution. Alternative designs are instead the way to move the industry forward.  

Speaking at the conference, he said: “The foundation is the wind turbine’s Achilles heel. The current monopile is not an optimal solution.”

Speaking to RET, Rønvik said he wasn’t sure that the monopile had reached its full potential but stated there were problems with its design.
“The monopile has weaknesses and poses a constant challenge in the construction,” he said.     

Alan Bromage, consultant of The Concrete Centre, said that focussing on concrete designs is the way for the global offshore wind industry to move forward and meet EU 2020 targets. This includes to increase renewable energy use by 20 per cent.

During a session at the conference, Bromage spoke about concrete gravity foundations, which he said offer advantages, such as reducing costs and improving installation, mostly unknown to the wind industry.

He said it is now up to offshore wind farm developers to decide which materials and designs are best for them and for the water depth they are working at. But added that the industry will use concrete more in the future.

“Concrete is really going to come into its own, after 5m water depths, in the 25m to 50m zone,” he said.

“It is better to look at alternative solutions. It is up to developers to work out which is best for them and gives a deliverable solution,” he said.

However, Bromage said that there is not a race emerging between the concrete and steel industries, but room for all designs to be used in offshore wind farm development.

Speaking to RET, he said: “I don’t see a competition between us and steel. There is space for all.”