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UK-China projects to develop next generation of offshore renewable energy technologies

14 September 2017

Researchers from the UK and China will collaborate on five projects to develop the next generation of offshore renewable energy (ORE) technologies to enable the safe, secure, cheap and efficient provision of clean energy.

The collaborative, multidisciplinary three-year-long projects will use environmental science, technology and engineering to tackle key challenges affecting the development of ORE systems, such as offshore wind, wave and tide facilities, and maximise their environmental and socio-economic benefits. The projects will determine where the best energy resource is available and where would be best to implement ORE technologies, and inform the development of technology so that structures are resilient to extreme events such as typhoons and earthquakes.

The latest data published by the government in 2017 showed that a record 47 per cent of the UK’s electricity was generated by clean energy sources in 2016. Overall, renewable sources – which include onshore and offshore wind, solar farms, hydroelectric dams and biomass – accounted for 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation.

In addition, the projects will:

·     showcase the potential of ORE technologies to provide stable power supply for island and coastal communities, particularly in China, but also in UK offshore island communities

·     improve understanding of resources for ORE systems under different conditions between UK and China, all of which will move both countries closer towards a low carbon economy

·     help to understand and reduce the risk of extreme events and encourage sustainable development of ORE systems, which could kick-start floating design methods and assess suitability of current standards and methods

·     help to reduce the uncertainty in resource and the potential power produced, while identifying and informing ORE system build sites. This research could underpin other aspects of ORE development, both engineering and policy

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) are supporting the projects with almost £4 million of funding, which will be distributed from the Newton Fund. The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is providing support for all of the projects. The projects have been funded as part of the Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme.

Richard Harrington, Minister for Energy and Industry, said: “The UK is a world leader in offshore wind which helps us meet our climate commitments while we grow the economy and create jobs.

“This £4 million investment will support collaborative research into the next generation of offshore technologies with one of our largest global trading partners, unlocking further opportunities for projects across the UK and the rest of the world.”

EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “The Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme will build on a successful history of international collaboration between EPSRC and NERC in the UK, and the NSFC in China, across a range of topics.

“This multidisciplinary programme has already delivered invaluable research on reducing energy demand at the city scale, the integration of electric vehicles and grid scale energy storage. These new projects bring together some of the leading minds in this field from the UK and China to increase our capacity to generate and distribute affordable, safe, clean energy.”

NERC’s Chief Executive, Professor Duncan Wingham, said: “This research will develop the potential of offshore renewable energy technologies, integrating environmental science to provide a better understanding of the energy resources, the sustainable development of ORE systems and where best to locate and deploy these systems to ensure a stable power supply with minimal environmental impact.”

NSFC President, Yang Wei, said: “Further advancing China’s already world-leading renewable energy sector is an integral part of the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan and will help drive future economic growth and advance the cause of low-carbon development. As always, partnership with the UK in this field helps build upon both sides’ complementary strengths in research and innovation and will definitely further strengthen our already productive bilateral relationship in the long run.”

NSFC’s Deputy-Director General of the Department of Engineering and Material Science, Professor Che Chengwei, said: “In the long run, it is vital to develop high-efficiency clean energy for a sustainable society. We are delighted to see the ongoing development of UK-China research collaborations, and believe these newly-funded projects lead to positive outcomes that will further strengthen bilateral cooperation.”

The projects will ultimately promote economic development in China by bringing down the cost of energy, understanding the environmental processes that can lead to climate change as well as addressing the population welfare issues associated with reliance on fossil fuels.

Summaries of the projects:

Resilient Integrated-Coupled FOW platform design methodology (ResIn) – EP/R007519/1

The vision of this multi-disciplinary project is to provide a foundation to develop and demonstrate an integrated approach to system resilience for ORE in China and the UK, improving energy security while reducing environmental impacts. The proposal builds on environmental resource assessment techniques and data that enable enhanced characterisation methodologies with a focus towards localised environmental conditions and extremes. The engineering focus lies on the quantification and validation of the load reduction potential of novel floating offshore wind platform innovations.

Led by: Professor Lars Johanning, University of Exeter, and Professor Bing Chen, Dalian University of Technology

EPSRC funding: £811,876

FENGBO-WIND: Farming the Environment into the Grid: Big data in Offshore Wind – EP/R007470/1

The FENGBO-WIND project aims to utilise the newest developments in high-performance computing, physics-based modelling and data science, to create a new generation of predicting capabilities that support the design and operation of more economical offshore wind farms, while assessing and seeking to minimise their environmental impact.

Led by: Professor Mike Graham, Imperial College London, and Professor Yonghua Song, Zhejiang University

EPSRC funding: £812,414

Extreme wind and wave loads on the next generation of offshore wind turbines – EP/R007632/1

The aim of this project is to improve the design methodology for offshore wind turbine farms, leading to a reduction in environmental impact, reduction in design uncertainties and ultimately reduced cost of energy. Key themes that will be addressed include: the modelling of the ocean environment in typhoon conditions in potential candidate areas for offshore turbines in China; the creation of realistic environmental load time-histories on turbines; analysis of the structural and geotechnical design of turbines under ultimate state limit and fatigue loadings; and activities aimed at the establishment of long-term collaboration between the UK and China partners.

Led by: Professor Thomas Adcock, University of Oxford, and Professor Ye Li, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

EPSRC funding: £799,386

Modelling, Optimisation and Design of Conversion for Offshore Renewable Energy (UK-China MOD-CORE) – EP/R007756/1

The project aims to advance the use of virtual prototyping in the design and optimisation of ORE Power Takeoff (PTO) systems. Advances in virtual prototyping, which involves the use of numerical, analytical and empirical models to create and validate designs before the creation of physical PTO prototypes, can reduce the risks to offshore development through evaluation of difference performance and environmental metrics and interactions between separate system aspects. It can also address operating challenges such as availability by revealing stress characteristics and confirming the effectiveness of operation and management strategies for electrical generators and power converters.

Led by: Dr Alasdair McDonald, University of Strathclyde, and Professor Li Ran, Chongqing University

EPSRC funding: £809,108

Investigation of the novel challenges of an integrated offshore Multi-Purpose Platform – EP/R007497/1

The project proposes a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling challenges facing the integration of different offshore technologies, such as renewable energy and aquaculture, in a Multi-Purpose Platform (MPP) system, finding synergies in the manufacturing, installation, operation and decommissioning costs of the different facilities, lowering the overall cost. MPPs have the potential to save money, reduce overall impact and maximise socio-economic benefits. It will develop approaches to assess the feasibility of an MPP system and showcase this potential through two case studies, one focusing on an island community in China and one in the UK.

Led by: Dr Maurizio Collu, Cranfield University, and Liang Zhang, Harbin Engineering University

EPSRC funding: £766,237

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