Researcher in Residence: Paving the way for sustainable offshore wind expansion

offshore wind turbines

In a move to bolster the UK’s commitment to Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a cutting-edge research project funded by the Innovation Launchpad Network+ and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and led by Northumbria University’s Ben Xu is set to delve into the mechanics and materials that underpin the expansion of offshore wind power.

Unlike onshore wind farms, offshore wind power presents unparalleled potential for large-scale renewable energy generation, tapping into stronger and more consistent winds. The UK government’s ambitious target to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050 positions offshore wind as a linchpin in the national strategy.

With plans to increase installed wind capacity from 10 GW in 2020 to an impressive 40 GW by 2030, this expansion is poised to deliver a staggering 175TWh of electricity—approximately half of the country’s current annual electrical energy consumption.

The Research in Residence (RiR) project, at its core, aims to unravel key challenges hindering the realisation of these goals. Three fundamental research objectives will guide the project:

Understanding Undersea Cable Degradation: The project will delve into the intricate mechanisms surrounding the degradation of undersea cables, critical components of offshore renewable energy (ORE) systems. The insights gained will not only guide sustainable manufacturing processes but also enhance the longevity and performance of offshore installations.

Combatting Turbine Blade Erosion: By developing more effective models to tackle leading-edge erosion on turbine blades, the project seeks to improve the operational life and overall efficiency of offshore wind turbines. This research will contribute to the optimization of wind energy systems, ensuring they are resilient and reliable.

Optimising Composite Design: Leveraging composite design and finite element analysis, the project aims to optimize the overall performance of offshore systems. This multifaceted approach will enhance the efficiency, structural integrity, and sustainability of offshore wind installations.

Dai Lewis, Senior Academic Engagement Manager at Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, said: “Ben Xu has been a keen collaborator with ORE Catapult on a number of PhD projects and the Researcher in Residence programme is an great opportunity to expand our relationship. Ben’s multi-strand project will attempt to investigate a number of industry critical issues, helping us gain valuable knowledge that can feed into a number of projects we are currently developing.”

Led by Ben Xu from Northumbria University, this RiR project represents a crucial step towards advancing offshore wind energy. Through groundbreaking research and innovation, the project is poised to play a pivotal role in catapulting the UK to the forefront of the burgeoning offshore wind market.

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