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Flexible Funding - Research Projects

We are pleased to announce that the Supergen ORE Hub has awarded over £2.2million to twenty-two UK University led consortiums in our Flexible Funding to support ambitious research projects investigating all aspects of offshore renewable energy (ORE).

The Flexible Fund has been established to enable UK researchers to respond to a number of key offshore renewable energy (ORE) engineering challenges, and to support projects areas that complement existing research, fill gaps or add cross-cutting activities to explore the transfer of research findings between sectors within ORE.

Congratulations to all who were successful in the first and second funding rounds. A full list of Flexible Funding research projects can be found below.

Details of future Flexible Funding calls will be announced through the Supergen ORE Hub’s Network mailing list, websiteTwitter account and LinkedIn in the future.

Supergen ORE Hub - Second Flexible Funding Call, March 2020 - Research Projects


The design of offshore renewable energy (ORE) structures requires estimates of the joint extreme values of metocean variables. For example, the design of fixed or floating offshore wind turbines requires estimates of joint (concurrent) extremes of wave heights and wind speeds. Similarly, the design of tidal turbines requires estimates of the joint extremes of wave heights and current speeds, whilst for wave energy converters the joint extremes of wave heights and periods are important.

The aim of the proposed research is to address the several research challenges in this area by (i) extending existing multivariate statistical models to create a single coherent and straightforward framework in which to estimate multivariate extremes, and (ii) developing open-source software for estimating multivariate metocean extremes, based on the methodologies developed in (i). The objectives of the proposed research are: 1. Extend the existing composite model approach to higher dimensions; 2. Develop a novel single-model approach for multivariate extremes; 3. Integrate the models into open-source software for estimation of multivariate extremes; 4. Demonstrate the application of models to extreme loading of ORE structures.


The proposed research will improve the reliability and availability of offshore electrical infrastructure components via 3D printed, smart acoustic sensors which can be tailored to specific cable and junction properties and are robust in challenging environments.

This proposal comprises the design and manufacture of a perovskite structured piezoelectric with an anisotropic response tailored to a cable termination and evaluation of its performance in terms of sensitivity gain and reliability of detection of partial discharges. The proposal comprises two streams of work which may be parallelized to some extent.

Work under the first stream will examine the design space of the perovskite structured sensors in terms of modelling and experimentation to develop a proof-of-principle sensor. This sensor will be evaluated in terms of the sensitivity and signal to noise ratio in laboratory settings. The second work stream investigates an acoustic emission detection system, and the embedding of a tailored 3D printed sensor in a cable termination. This second stream will be carried out through an additional 6 months’ support from our Electrical Infrastructures Research Hub (EIRH) collaboration with ORE Catapult (OREC).


An efficient source of renewable energy, which is increasingly the preferred solution for realising Britain’s short- and long-term energy ambitions, is offshore wind. While Britain is presently the global leader in offshore wind energy, the national target set by the UK government to increase the installed capacity of offshore wind energy from approximately 10 GW in 2020 to 40 GW in 2030 demonstrates the strategic importance of this clean source of energy for the UK’s energy mix.

Offshore wind turbines (OWTs) are typically designed for 20-25 years of operation. One of the main barriers for extending the operational lifespan of OWTs beyond 25 years is the evolution of corrosion-fatigue damage due to the constant exertion of wind, wave and current variable amplitude forces in the highly corrosive environments. The overall aim of this project is to develop permanent additively manufactured protective layers, as a novel coating technology, in the critical areas of offshore wind turbine (OWT) support structures. This will extend the lifespan, optimise and reduce the number of frequent inspections and deliver a direct beneficial impact on Operations and Maintenance (O&M) costs of OWTs.


Harvesting untapped wave energy represents both an attractive solution to support the move towards a carbon-free society and a major technical challenge to develop reliable Power Take-Off (PTO) systems that convert mechanical motion into electrical power. In recent years, all-electric PTO systems have been proposed with an aim to reduce system complexity in order to increase reliability and, ultimately, reduce the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). This has led to the development of novel direct-drive generators that couple directly to the prime mover; the mechanical interface is therefore eliminated along with the wear and lubrication issues that have caused so many component failures in the wind energy industry. Despite the progress made in PTO design in recent years and the steps taken to reduce the LCOE of wave energy conversion, costs are still high compared to other renewable energy technologies where Operation and Maintenance (O&M) is still a key issue.

The project aims to reduce O&M costs by improving PTO reliability and simplifying maintenance through the use of integrated, power electronics – electrical machine, modular design. This aim addresses a very relevant and timely challenge in wave energy conversion by a need to reduce LCOE initially to be competitive alongside other renewable energy sources, with the longer-term goal to compete with established fossil-fuel generation.

Marine current measurements are vital for tidal resource estimation and resilient design criteria for all Offshore Renewable Energies (ORE). In-situ measurements are costly, and retrieval of seabed mounted equipment is not guaranteed. Moreover, in many potential ORE locations globally, suitable field survey campaigns may not be viable. Until now, most data for model validation and impact assessment have focused on temporal variability from single-point measurements, yet spatial variability is of critical importance. Additionally, most oceanographic current measurements are sub-surface; the near-surface zone is largely unknown due to instrument limitations (e.g., surface interference making the top few “bins” of ADCP data unusable). The development of low-cost and low-risk surface current mapping tools, and translating this knowledge to flow at depth, is therefore a key challenge in ORE development. Surface current maps would provide high-resolution detail needed to measure spatial heterogeneity, understand realworld wakes and the relationship between flow and animal behaviour when combined with ecological surveys. A better understanding of surface currents will also improve resilience of floating ORE and yield of floating tidal turbines.

The aim of V-SCORES is comprehensive validation of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) techniques for surface current spatial mapping, demonstrated at tidal stream sites. Field campaigns will be conducted at contrasting commercial sites (Pentland Firth, Scotland & Ramsey Sound, Wales) under different environmental conditions (wave exposure, operational turbines installed, etc.).


Growing demand for renewable forms of energy extraction highlights the essential role of subsea power cables. In 2018, UK’s operational offshore wind farms were using 1,499 km of export and >1,806 km of inter-array cables to transport 6,385 MW of electrical power. 43 array and export cable failures have been reported between 2007 and 2018, resulting from a number of reasons including sediment and sedimentary bedform mobility and accidents from e.g. dredging and benthic fishing.

This proposal is the first to make detailed field measurements of scour development over a section of real subsea cable. Existing assessments of cable scour from state-of-the-art labs and numerical models have provided valuable insight but are inherently limited. This project aims to provide a validated benchmark scenario linking turbulent flow and scour development relevant to ORE subsea cables at local to centimetric scales. To allow industry to apply new knowledge in the development of upscaled lab experiments and numerical models to provide optimised methods for cable protection, particularly where array-scale effects may feedback to and modify seabed mobility over larger areas than expected.


WTIMTS proposes a novel combined approach to measurement of turbulence and waves at tidal energy sites. If successful, this will allow an unprecedented level of confidence in decoupling these deeply entangled phenomena using only standard instrumentation (i.e., bed-mounted ADCPs and wavebuoys/WaveNet equivalent) – a limitation that is particularly relevant at the highly energetic sites of interest to the tidal stream industry, where more sophisticated instrument arrays are often impracticable. This will also permit the project to characterise, for the first time, the ways in which wave action enhances turbulence at such sites, and how far into the water column its influence extends.



As larger wind turbines with newer powertrain technologies are introduced in the offshore wind sector, state-of-the-art machine learning techniques that use past field data are no longer directly applicable. Operational alarms based on physical models of older turbines are often no longer valid with new powertrain technology. This represents a key vulnerability in the offshore wind sector.

This project will develop a hybrid digital twin combining transfer learning and physical modelling approaches that will be able to model normal and abnormal behaviour for new turbines before operational data is available. As turbines move further offshore, operators are motivated to reduce the number of turbine visits for cost and safety reasons. The hybrid models proposed in this application could be used to reduce the number of powertrain inspection and service visits. The requirement for visits will be reduced through the digital twin providing additional health indicators and recommendations to the operators, and by adding confidence to the use of existing heath indicators provided by SCADA and monitoring systems.

This research will investigate the direct coupling of wave energy converters to reverse osmosis desalination plant powered by pressurised water from the primary power take off system. Although reverse-osmosis desalination plant driven by renewable energy currently exist, they have mostly used an electric pump to provide a relatively stable saline water flow. Direct coupling to the hydraulic output of a WEC poses several challenges the most significant being that reverse-osmosis (RO) plant does not normally operate in variable inflow conditions and consequently there is very little published research in this area. As not all WEC concepts are suitable for direct hydraulic coupling to RO plant, it is essential to develop a target specification and apply it to current and proposed technology.


This project will directly solve the challenge of measuring the fatigue performance of tidal turbine blades by generating, for the first time globally, statistically robust accelerated cyclic loading data for the lifetime of a fullscale tidal blade. This will be carried out at economic cost over a short timescale that will enable developer designs to be more quickly refined than is currently possible. Tidal turbines operate in a harsh marine environment, characterised by significant levels of flow unsteadiness, with tidal blades needing to withstand both deterministic (e.g. shear profile, tidal fluctuations) and stochastic (e.g. waves, turbulence) induced loads. The resulting fatigue loading is a significant cause of blade failure. Understanding these loads and their impact on blade structural performance is crucial in order to avoid premature failure and to increase confidence in tidal blade design, leading to reduced cost of energy. This project will model, define and apply these fatigue loads to develop a process for full-scale tidal blade testing.


Machine Learning for Low-Cost Offshore Modelling (MaLCOM) will develop a modelling methodology to provide rapid, accurate nowcasts and forecasts of the wave conditions at a regional scale using limited input data and requiring drastically reduced computational power. MaLCOM will use the historical outputs of a physics-based model and in-situ measurements to build a statistical representation, termed a surrogate model, between measurements and modelled conditions throughout a region using a machine learning approach. The developed surrogate model will provide two key benefits: (1) immediate spatial assessment of conditions with very little computational power required, such that it could be deployed on a mobile device or autonomous vessel and (2) improved accuracy of metocean forecasts through integrating in-situ measurements. This project will allow refinement and demonstration of this resource modelling and forecasting concept for marine energy sites.


Offshore wind energy is central to UK’s ambition of reducing carbon emissions. Traditional fixed foundation wind farms have limitations due to their surrounding environment and congestion, whereas floating platforms provide utilisation of deeper waters and increased capacity, for example in the North Sea. The Floating Wind Joint Industry Project Report 2018 identified cables to be at the heart of priority innovation needs. Typically, cable assets contribute to 5-10% of the total investment costs for an offshore wind farm. However, cable failures cause the majority of the offshore power outages and account for approximately 80% of insurance claims in this industry.

The hypothesis explored in this proposal is that repeated flexing of a cable significantly reduces the cable’s life expectancy through repeated extension and compression of the polymeric dielectric. In particular, the impact of dynamic strain on a failure mechanism known as electrical tree growth will be explored. Electrical trees are microscopic tree-like voids which grow inside the insulation that eventually lead to catastrophic asset failure. The project will work closely with ORE Catapult’s dynamic cable bend fatigue rig team in Blyth, to conduct the test trial combining the mechanical flexing and electrical treeing concurrently.



Supergen ORE Hub - First Flexible Funding Call, April 2019 - Research Projects


Chalk, which can behave as a weak rock, can also be de-structured into a soft putty under pile driving or severe cyclic loading. Recent difficulties experienced offshore in chalk have highlighted an urgent need for more accurate and reliable design tools to enable robust and cost-effective foundation design for offshore wind energy developments involving this highly problematic geomaterial. This project will use pre-collected data to develop a novel numerical analysis to capture the behaviour of both individual chalk elements and full-scale offshore piles.


The maintenance and monitoring of Offshore Wind Turbines (OWTs) and Floating Offshore Wind Turbines (FOWTs) present significant challenges. Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) used to inspect them are limited in accessibility and manoeuvrability. This project will build a “Robo Fish” – a biometric Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) capable of continuously and autonomously locating and monitoring structural damage to OWTs or FOWTs. The Robo Fish mimics the movement of an eel, allowing it to greater agility in close proximity to structures and better energy efficiency of movement compared to conventional AUV designs.


Nearly all offshore wind turbines are located in relatively shallow water mounted on fixed bottom support structures. These sites have limited high winds and the turbines are usually highly visible – it therefore makes sense to extend wind turbine systems to deeper water. However, fixed bottom support structures are not feasible in deeper water, so it is necessary to explore floating offshore wind turbine (FOWT) systems. FOWT using semi-submersible support structures can experience unacceptably large heave, pitch and roll motions in extreme waves which can affect the performance of the turbine and can cause significant damage. This project will evaluate the potential and effectiveness of applying tuned liquid dampers with anti-heave plates to reduce the motions.


A key problem with predicting tidal turbine lifespan is a lack of data on the unsteady flow conditions at tidal sites. This lack of data causes inaccurate calculations of the lifespan of tidal turbines and drives up the cost of tidal power generation. A prototype probe has been designed which can capture small fluctuations in the flow despite the high hydrostatic pressure when the probe is at depth. This project will develop the probe from a laboratory prototype and prove its operation in marine environments – paving the way for cheap, detailed site surveys, and better predictions of turbine lifespan.

This project will develop a novel methodology to accurately quantify and describe the impact of current on wave measurement buoys. This work enables future measurements to more accurately account for the impact of current, provide a framework for estimating the current from wave buoy measurements, and reprocessing existing buoy datasets to provide historical current estimates. This means that offshore wind, tidal and wave energy technologies can be better designed considering the environmental conditions that they will be exposed to. Furthermore, the opportunity to use common, scaled, characterisation technology in the tank and field will aid the understanding of techniques used to translate site data into the laboratory.


The “standard” approach to modelling wind loads on a floating offshore wind turbine in a hydrodynamic test is via direct physical simulation, using a correctly-scaled working model of the turbine operating in a scaled wind field above the test tank. This poses a number of challenges. Generating a wind field of high controllability and large volume over the tank is difficult and expensive, and scaled model testing can led to manufacturing challenges. An alternative possibility is to utilize “software-in-the-loop” (SIL) in which an active control system drives an actuator in real time to generate system excitation forces in a model test. While it offers a number of benefits, a significant number of challenges remain for this type of testing. This project aims to address the challenges of existing SIL approaches by developing and validating novel approaches to, and practices for, SIL modelling of floating wind turbines in physical model tests.


Renewable energy systems work in variable and uncertain conditions, and this feature would naturally ask for transient overload capabilities of all components involved. Among the main components in an offshore renewable energy system, the power electronic stage is the only one lacking such a capability. This project will research a novel concept to assign, for the first time, a usable overload capability to power semiconductor devices and to use this capability in offshore renewable energy systems, for the purposes of stress reduction and grid support.



As our society becomes ever-more dependent on wind power, it is increasingly important to gain a deeper understanding and more accurate predictability of the wind power availability, the aero-elastic fatigue loads on the wind turbine blades/drive train, and the associated issues of turbine control. The Sandia method proposes to numerically simulate the instantaneous three-dimensional wind field impacting on a wind turbine based solely on information from the frequency spectrum of the incoming wind (i.e. PSD) and its two-point velocity correlations in space across the turbine diameter. This method of prediction is very appealing for industrial applications as numerical predictions agree well with field measurements. This project will investigate whether the Sandia method can reliably be applied to flow with different stability properties, and thereby allow both better initial turbine design and better live prediction of loads and fatigue in service.

Satellite-based measurement has long been identified as having a potential role in enabling cost reduction of marine renewables, but applications have been largely limited to wind resource assessment and wake modelling. This project aims to take satellite data usage in offshore renewable energy (ORE) to the next level by better linking satellite data, models driven by such data, decisions driven by the model outputs, and quantifying this impact on a Levelised Cost of Energy. By mapping linkages between key decision horizons in ORE life cycle to satellite capability will produce a visual map of where satellite data can best impact ORE project decisions. This map will direct the data analysis activities towards the project decisions having the best potential for improvement and quantify any reductions in uncertainty. These improvements will then be captured and monetised in a range of cost models.


The wind energy industry is the fastest growing global consumer of glass fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP) composites. In parallel with this growth is rising GRP waste from end-of-life wind turbine blades (WTB). Unlike other wind turbine components modern lightweight composite WTB are not designed for recyclability. Consequently, developing commercially viable solutions for WTB recycling and reuse is rapidly becoming one of the most important challenges facing global wind industry. This project aims to develop a cost-effective recycling process with commercial competitiveness for large scale recycling of wind turbine blades through reducing the energy demand in the recycling process, improving the quality of reclaimed fibres, and improving their manufacturability.