Fatigue load monitoring of offshore wind turbine support structures
The uptake of renewable energy sources has increased dramatically in recent decades, in response to the contribution to climate change attributed to CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, the need for governments to maximise the use of domestic energy forms with depleting conventional sources, and to reduce exposure to fuel price volatility. Renewable energy targets set by the European Union have been supported by legislation and economic incentives, and have resulted in a sharp increase in installed wind power capacity in particular. Wind power is seen as a particularly attractive source of renewable energy capacity in the UK due to favourable resources and a competitive cost of energy for onshore sites, with 8.8 GW of capacity currently installed . Constraints from visual and environmental impacts, together with improved wind resources, have led to the acceptance of greater financial costs and the exploitation of offshore sites, with over 5 GW installed to date . Both onshore and offshore, the wind industry now has significant operational experience, with some of the earliest wind farms approaching the end of their design life. Material fatigue is a design critical factor which dictates the safe operational life of wind turbines, but is subjected to numerous areas of uncertainty in the level of environmental loading and structural response, as well as material properties and manufacturing methods. Therefore, a conservative design must be ensured from the outset, which presents the potential for fatigue life extension of installed assets if improved knowledge of their operational experience can be obtained. This thesis details the methodology for a fatigue load assessment of operational offshore wind turbine support structures using measured data, and attempts to quantify areas of loading which contribute to total fatigue damage. The methodologies developed build on existing recommendations for onshore wind turbines to incorporate the additional effects of the offshore environment. Results from measured loading suggest that design fatigue levels can be reduced if operational monitoring is included. Operational experience can allow design conservatism, which is necessary due to uncertainties in structural properties and in levels of stochastic loading, to be more accurately quantified.