Suction caissons in sand as tripod foundations for offshore wind turbines

Marc Senders

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    2819 Downloads (Pure)


    [Truncated abstract] The demand for offshore wind turbines is increasing in densely populated areas, such as Europe. These constructions are typically founded on a gravity foundation or a large 'mono pile'. Gravity foundations can only be used at locations where strong soils exist and water depths are limited. Costs associated with a 'mono pile' type foundation contribute to a very large percentage of the total investment costs. This research, therefore, focuses upon a different foundation for offshore wind turbines, namely suction caissons beneath a tripod. This foundation can be used in all kinds of soil types and is cheaper than the 'mono pile' foundation, both in the amount of steel used and installation costs. Cheaper foundations can contribute to a more competitive price for offshore wind energy in comparison with other energy resources. To date, there have been relatively few studies to investigate the behaviour of this type of foundation during the installation process and during operational and ultimate loading for seabed conditions comprising dense sand. Two types of investigations were performed during this research to determine the behaviour of suction caissons beneath a tripod. Firstly, an existing computer program was extended to predict the typical loading conditions for a tripod foundation. Secondly, centrifuge tests on small scale suction caissons were performed to investigate the behaviour during the installation and loading phases. The computer program developed helped to quantify the likely ranges of environmental loading on an offshore wind turbine. For a typical 3 MW wind turbine of 90 m height, the vertical load is low at around 7 MN. During storm conditions the horizontal hydrodynamic load can be in the order of 4 MN. During normal working conditions the horizontal aerodynamic loads can reach 0.4 MN, but can increase to 1.2 MN when the pitch system malfunctions and gusts reach 30 m/s. This aerodynamic load will result in a very large contribution to the overturning moment, due to the high action point of this load. When the wind turbine is placed on top of a tripod, these large moments are counteracted by a push-pull system. ... The development of differential pressure was found to depend on the soil permeability, the extraction speed and a consolidation effect. During cyclic loading no obvious signs of a decrease in resistance were observed. During very fast cyclic loading differential pressures developed, which could increase the drained frictional resistance by approximately 40%. All centrifuge tests results were used to develop methods to predict or back calculate the installation process of suction caissons in sand and layered soil, and the behaviour during tensile and cyclic loading. These methods all use the cone resistance as the main input parameter and predict the force (or required suction) as a function of time, for a given rate of pumping or uplift displacement, in addition to the variation of suction with penetration (or force with uplift displacement). These new methods provide a useful tool in designing a reliable foundation for offshore wind turbines consisting of a tripod arrangement of suction caissons embedded in dense sand.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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