Observed dynamic soil–structure interaction in scale testing of offshore wind turbine foundations

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Bhattacharya, S ; Nikitas, N ; Garnsey, J ; Alexander, NA ; Cox, J ; Lombardi, D ; Muir Wood, D ; Nash, DFT (2013)
  • Publisher: Elsevier

Monopile foundations have been commonly used to support offshore wind turbine generators (WTGs), but this type of foundation encounters economic and technical limitations for larger WTGs in water depths exceeding 30 m. Offshore wind farm projects are increasingly turning to alternative multipod foundations (for example tetrapod, jacket and tripods) supported on shallow foundations to reduce the environmental effects of piling noise. However the characteristics of these foundations under dynamic loading or long term cyclic wind turbine loading are not fully understood. This paper summarises the results from a series of small scaled tests (1:100, 1:150 and 1:200) of a complete National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) wind turbine model on three types of foundations: monopiles, symmetric tetrapod and asymmetric tripod. The test bed used consists of either kaolin clay or sand and up to 1.4 million loading cycles were applied. The results showed that the multipod foundations (symmetric or asymmetric) exhibit two closely spaced natural frequencies corresponding to the rocking modes of vibration in two principle axes. Furthermore, the corresponding two spectral peaks change with repeated cycles of loading and they converge for symmetric tetrapods but not for asymmetric tripods. From the fatigue design point of view, the two spectral peaks for multipod foundations broaden the range of frequencies that can be excited by the broadband nature of the environmental loading (wind and wave) thereby impacting the extent of motions. Thus the system lifespan (number of cycles to failure) may effectively increase for symmetric foundations as the two peaks will tend to converge. However, for asymmetric foundations the system life may continue to be affected adversely as the two peaks will not converge. In this sense, designers should prefer symmetric foundations to asymmetric foundations.
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