The Influence of Foundation Modeling Assumptions on Long-Term Load Prediction for Offshore Wind Turbines

Bush, E., Agarwal, P., Manuel, L.


In evaluating ultimate limit states for design, time-domain aeroelastic response simulations are typically carried out to establish extreme loads on offshore wind turbines.  Accurate load prediction depends on proper modeling of the wind turbulence and the wave stochastic processes as well as of the turbine, the support structure, and the foundation.  One method for modeling the support structure is to rigidly connect it to the seabed; such a foundation model is appropriate only when the sea floor is firm (as is the case for rock).  To obtain realistic turbine response dynamics for softer soils, it is important that a flexible foundation is modeled.  While a single discrete spring for coupled lateral/rotational motion or several distributed springs along the length of the monopile may be employed, a tractable alternative is to employ a fictitious fixed-based pile modeled as an “equivalent” cantilever beam, where the length of this fictitious pile is determined using conventional pile lateral load analysis in combination with knowledge of the soil profile.

The objective of this study is to investigate the influence of modeling flexible pile foundations on offshore wind turbine loads such as the fore-aft tower bending moment at the mudline.  We employ a utility-scale 5MW offshore wind turbine model with a 90-meter hub height in simulations; the turbine is assumed to be sited in 20 meters of water.  For a critical wind-wave combination known to control long-term design loads, we study time histories, power spectra, response statistics, and probability distributions of extreme loads for fixed-base and flexible foundation models with the intention of assessing the importance of foundation model selection.  Load distributions are found to be sensitive to foundation modeling assumptions.  Extrapolation to rare return periods may be expected to lead to differences in derived nominal loads needed in ultimate limit state design; this justifies the use of flexible foundation models in simulation studies.


Bush, E., Agarwal, P. and Manuel, L., “The Influence of Foundation Modeling Assumptions on Long-Term Load Prediction for Offshore Wind Turbines,” 27th International Conference on Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering, Estoril, Portugal, June 15-20, 2008.