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Mammoth crane installs UK's first 'gigantic, game-changing' wind turbine foundation

Joseph Flaig

The 25,000 tonne Asian Hercules III installs the first suction bucket jacket foundation for the EOWDC, off Aberdeen Bay (Credit: Vattenfall)
The 25,000 tonne Asian Hercules III installs the first suction bucket jacket foundation for the EOWDC, off Aberdeen Bay (Credit: Vattenfall)

Weighing the equivalent of almost 10 Boeing 747s, the wind turbine foundation needed a strong machine to lift it – thankfully, the 25,000 tonne Asian Hercules III was up to the task.

One of the world’s largest floating cranes, the Hercules installed the first of 11 “gigantic, game-changing” suction bucket jacket foundations at the European Offshore Wind Development Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay on Sunday.

The relatively speedy 15-hour installation was the first time engineers installed the “pioneering” foundation in the UK, said operator Vattenfall.

The 1,800 tonne steel structures are installed with a single offshore lift, reducing the amount of noise generated. Noisy hydraulic rams typically drive piles into the sea floor, so Vattenfall said the suction buckets bring “considerable” environmental benefits.

Engineers lower them into the water, where the upturned buckets rapidly embed into the seabed to create secure foundations. Later in spring, they will serve as the base for the world’s most powerful turbines, the record-breaking V164-8.4MW.

“By enabling faster and smarter installation, the technology will drive down offshore wind costs considerably, provide a further foundation option at challenging sites, whilst also allowing an easier and complete decommissioning,” said project director Adam Ezzamel. “These foundations are the first visible structures offshore for the EOWDC, which we hope will go some way to help establish the north-east as a centre for offshore wind innovation.”

As Scotland’s largest offshore test and demonstration facility, the 92.4MW EOWDC will trial next-generation technology and will generate the equivalent of 70% of Aberdeen's domestic electricity demand, annually displacing 132,977 tonnes of CO2.

The centre “provides a real opportunity to showcase how innovation ‎can continue to reduce the cost of offshore wind,” said the Scottish government’s energy minister Paul Wheelhouse. “It’s fantastic to, at long last, see the first installation of the project’s offshore infrastructure.”

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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