Hydrodynamics and drive-train dynamics of a direct-drive floating wind turbine
Floating wind turbines (FWTs) are considered a new lease of opportunity for sustaining growth from offshore wind energy. In recent years, several new concepts have emerged, with only a few making it to demonstration or pre-commercialisation stages. Amongst these, the spar-buoy based FWT has been extensively researched concept with efforts to optimise the dynamic response and reduce the costs at acceptable levels of performance. Yet, there exist notable lapses in understanding of these systems due to lack of established design standards, operational experience, inaccurate modelling and inconsistent reporting that hamper the design process. Previous studies on spar-buoy FWTs have shown inconsistencies in reporting hydrodynamic response and adopted simplified mooring line models that have failed to capture the coupled hydrodynamic behaviour accurately. At the same time, published information on drive-trains for FWTs is scarce and limited to geared systems that suffer from reliability issues. This research was aimed at filling the knowledge gaps with regard to hydrodynamic modelling and drive-train research for the spar-buoy FWT. The research proceeds in three parts, beginning with numerical modelling and experimental testing of a stepped spar-buoy FWT. A 1:100 scale model was constructed and tested in the University of Edinburgh’s curved wave tank for various regular and irregular sea states. The motion responses were recorded at its centre of mass and nacelle locations. The same motions were also simulated numerically using finite element method based software, OrcaFlex for identical wave conditions. The hydrodynamic responses were evaluated as Response Amplitude Operator (RAO) and compared with numerical simulations. The results showed very good agreement and the numerical model was found to better capture the non-linearities from mooring lines. A new design parameter, Nacelle Magnification Factor, was introduced to quantify coupled behaviour of the system. This could potentially encourage a new design approach to optimising floating wind turbine systems for a given hub height. The second part of the research was initiated by identification of special design considerations for drive-trains to be successfully integrated into FWTs. A comparative assessment of current state of the art showed good potential for directdrive permanent magnet synchronous generators (PMSG). A radial flux topology of the direct-drive PMSG was further examined to verify its suitability to FWT. The generator design was qualified based on its structural integrity and ability to ensure minimal overall impact. The results showed that limiting the generator weight without compromising air-gap tolerances or tower-foundation upgrades was the biggest challenge. Further research was required to verify the dynamic response and component loading to be at an acceptable level. The concluding part of research investigated the dynamic behaviour of the directdrive generator and the various processes that controlled its performance in a FWT. For this purpose, a fully coupled aero-hydro-servo-elastic model of direct-drive FWT was developed. This exercise yet again highlighted the weight challenge imposed by the direct-drive system entailing extra investment on structure. The drive-train dynamics were analysed using a linear combination of multi-body simulation tools namely HAWC2 and SIMPACK. Shaft misalignment, its effect on unbalanced magnetic pull and the main bearing loads were examined. The responses were found to be within acceptable limits and the FWT system does not appreciably alter the dynamics of a direct-drive generator. Any extra investment on the structure is expected to be outweighed by the superior performance and reliability with the direct-drive generator. In summary, this research proposes new solutions to increase the general understanding of hydrodynamics of FWTs and encourages the implementation of direct-drive generators for FWTs. It is believed that the solutions proposed through this research can potentially help address the design challenges of FWTs.