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DONG Energy will work with three universities to research and develop methods to reduce the cost of energy from offshore wind turbines. The academic consortium, led by the University of Oxford and including Imperial College London and University College Dublin, will investigate how offshore wind turbine foundations can be designed more effectively in the future.

The research project, PISA (Pile Soil Analysis), is being carried out by an industry working group headed by DONG Energy and involving RWE, Statoil, Statkraft, SSE, Scottish Power and Vattenfall.

PISA is being run under the framework of the Carbon Trust Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA), a U.K. government-supported organization established to promote offshore wind energy and reduce the cost of energy. Since the project was established earlier in the year, an international tender competition has been carried out to find an academic partner to provide the scientific support to the industry partners.

"We expect to find significant savings by trimming monopile sizes and finding new ways of installing the foundations, amongst others," notes Bent Christensen, DONG Energy senior vice president. "Consequently, we believe a significant contribution can come from this area towards our efforts of reducing the price of offshore wind power by 35% to 40% by 2020."

Currently, the monopile foundation for a typical offshore wind turbine weighs approximately 600 tons and primarily consists of steel. For a 100 turbine wind farm, for example, steel represents a substantial fabrication and installation cost. The thickness of the steel used for each pile is about 100millimeters. If this can be reduced, even by a fraction, without compromising the load-carrying capacity and stiffness of the foundation, there will be significant savings made in developing offshore wind.

According to DONG, the aim of the working group is to find technological solutions to be implemented in time for the design and construction of the large Round 3 offshore wind projects in the U.K. The working group will be publishing their final reports in 2015.

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