About the Project

The project will research the low Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) underpinning technology for large scale wind generator manufacture, examining the power train, foundations, blade design and inspection methodologies. The findings of the research project are relevant to academics working in a number of fields directly connected to wind energy, converter control, power electronic converters, blade design, foundation design, grid-interfacing and power systems. Furthermore, the underlying technologies developed within this programme will impact on research in a number of other market sectors from aerospace through automotive to medical. For instance, the modular generator could be applied to fault tolerant machines for more electric aircraft and ship propulsion, and the structural health monitoring techniques can be applied to earthquake zones and civil engineering structures such as bridges.

The research outputs are designed to align with the technology research and development roadmaps of Siemens and Ørsted and this allows for maximum impact from the funded research, and data made available through the project from the industrial partners will facilitate more industrially targeted research to be carried out within the academic environment, feeding through to the academic community in general through learned society publications.

Knowledge developed in the project will impact teaching at the collaborating universities directly at undergraduate and postgraduate level by seeding many ideas for projects and case studies.
The programme ultimately enables more affordable and efficient technology to facilitate growth of offshore wind power to meet energy needs worldwide. It provides growth in the UK OSW supply chain, meeting the national needs of growth in the low-carbon economy, achieving UK CO2 emissions-targets and ensuring resilient low-cost energy.

Key beneficiaries include:

  1. The UK OSW industry will obtain solutions to key issues impeding the further development of OSW technology – this will allow participants to forge ahead in a rapidly growing, high-demand global sector, developing new products and improving the efficiency and durability of existing technology. They will also benefit from an  nflux of specialists with a skill set tailored to their specific needs.
  2. The British Government and the environment will benefit from resilient and affordable solutions to meet their international obligations for reductions in CO2 emissions.
  3. The public will benefit from lower prices for sustainable electricity.
  4. Academic research will benefit from the dissemination of this internationally leading low-TRL research in high-impact journals and conferences.
  5. Young people and under-represented groups will be attracted into engineering and innovation.

The UK is positioning itself to be a world leader in offshore wind (OSW) technologies and in 2015 had 5 Gigawatts (GW) of generation, half of Europe’s deployed capacity. Deployment continues and by 2020 installed capacity is projected to grow to between 8 – 15 GW to meet UK Government policy objectives of a secure, affordable and low-carbon energy supply. For OSW this means increasing deployment rates at minimal subsidy, so driving down cost. As the offshore wind technology and industry mature, the deployment rate across Europe will increase and new markets will open in the US, Japan and China with forecast global deployment of 92GW by 2024.


Our vision is to forge a new partnership that uses leading research insight to reduce the levelised cost of energy.

The vision of this specific five-year low TRL research programme is to create the next generation of intelligent OSW technology. The lower TRL breakthroughs in this proposal will be accelerated into commercialisation. This proposal is part of a wider ambition – Project AURA – that includes all the consortium partners, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and local government on Humberside, offering support in R&D and training, demonstration and mentoring of UK suppliers through to full commercialisation.

Our ambition is to exemplify the opportunities identified in the Government’s Industrial Strategy for bringing together regional institutions and businesses with research excellence and innovation support. The research also aligns with EPSRC Prosperity Outcomes: Productivity (Innovative, disruptive technologies to reduce the levelised cost of wind power and drive the UK supply chains), Resilience (“Energy security and efficiency”), and Connectedness (big-data techniques in population-based monitoring).

The proposal will be an exemplar for how the maturing industry can more systematically engage with academia. The industrial partners believe that the synergy and scale of this programme will give greater momentum and coherence to the cross-industry and academic collaboration initiated through EPSRC SUPERGEN Wind. Working in partnership with the Catapult’s new Offshore Wind Innovation Hub and Offshore Wind Innovation Exchange, it will directly inform future esearch vision for the sector. As the sector matures, the follow-on ambition is to tackle the multi-disciplinary challenges in O&M that involve the social and environmental sciences (e.g. interactions with human factors, weather, and the marine environment).


Drive Train. As turbines increased in size, purely geared drive trains have reached the physical limits for tower mounted solutions. As turbines look to exceed 10MW the practical challenges of installing direct drive permanent magnet generators becomes an issue. Radical innovation in electrical machines and converters will develop a novel modular solution to enable cost effective deployment of large generators with greater robustness, fault-tolerance and reliability.

Blades. New technology and methods for assessing the structural health of blades will be investigated, to improve Operations & Maintenance (O&M) strategies, inform blade design, and reduce costly downtime from catastrophic failure. Currently, many wind turbines have no in-operation condition monitoring of the blades. Three complementary approaches will be progressed. Firstly, a novel population-based Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) method, enabled by the large number of comparable turbines in a farm, will be developed to create a step-change in the effectiveness of SHM for existing and future OSW farms. This approach applies nonlinear dynamics and system identification with artificial intelligence. Secondly, development of integrated fibre optic sensors in blades that can help to create a ‘digital twin’ of the blade by providing the dual-use of in-manufacture process data and operational monitoring. Lastly, computer vision methodologies will be developed to unlock the potential of 3D image inspection of blades and offshore structures. Each of these developments is linked to planned or existing and complementary higher TRL development.

Foundations. Advance the design and decision making for foundations through new models of stress in monopile and jacket foundations in near-surface subsea soils and improving understanding of soil interaction with different floating turbine anchoring concepts.

Operations & Maintenance. The objective is to reduce O&M costs from the component to the farm level by developing to TRL3, novel technologies to address known problems, that can be commercialised by the industrial partners or the supply chain. Work in this area will develop novel condition monitoring (CM) sensor technologies and investigate new approaches and techniques for earlier detection, diagnosis and prognosis of emergent faults using SCADA and condition monitoring turbine data.
The Humber is the natural location for developing an OSW cluster in the UK. In line with the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper the relevant regional universities are coming together for the first time in a coherent programme to deliver the world leading research that will develop an innovative edge. The Siemens £310m blade factory located in Hull already demonstrates the potential social impact of substantial growth in the OSW sector and this programme provides an opportunity to leverage further support through research, innovation and skills training to secure the future of the factory.