Shoring up energy security with offshore wind
Researchers from UTS and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM) are applying innovative geotechnical modelling to ensure a solid future for offshore wind energy.
Offshore wind turbines promise greater efficiency by capturing the powerful, uninterrupted winds found at sea. However, increased capacity comes with greater risk.
“Offshore wind turbines need a solid foundation, because they must stay in place even when wind speeds are very high,” says Dr Sanjay Nimbalkar from the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT.
“The turbine’s foundation can move, and in some instances collapse, due to natural calamities like earthquakes, soil erosion or strong winds.”
Dr Nimbalkar joins Dr Nilanjan Saha, of IITM’s Department of Ocean Engineering, in this collaborative research project. The pair are combining their respective expertise in structural engineering and geotechnical modelling to ensure offshore wind turbines stand up to the elements.
“My background is soil and Dr Saha’s is in structure, so we’re looking at the interaction between the soil and the structure,” says Dr Nimbalkar.
“Dr Saha certainly brings a different perspective to our geotechnical research group. He comes from a combined background in structure as well as geotech, so he’s the perfect person to really look into these core areas and suggest insights.”
The collaboration is timely; Australia and India have both taken significant steps towards their first offshore wind farms in 2019.
In March, an exploration licence was awarded to an $8b offshore wind energy project off the eastern coast of Victoria, Australia. Whilst in India, construction has already commenced on the nation’s first offshore wind energy project in Gujarat – the first in an ambitious plan to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
“Energy security is a priority in India and Australia,” says Dr Saha. “We want people to have electricity throughout the year without interruption from natural disasters like earthquakes, soil erosion and strong winds, which can shut down offshore wind turbines for a period of time.”
“Our research should ultimately benefit society. As technological universities, that’s very important to both UTS and IITM,” says Dr Nimbalkar.
Their collaboration is facilitated by a Key Technology Partnerships agreement between UTS and IITM. The agreement has opened up opportunities to deepen the researchers’ engagement through joint publication, academic exchange and co-supervision of research students.