Towards Understanding Reliability Levels for Offshore Wind Turbines

Agarwal, P. and Manuel, L.


Achieving uniform reliability is a desired intent of design standards based on Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) methodology. The design standard for offshore wind turbines, the IEC 61400-3 (IEC, 2009), also follows the LRFD. This standard is based on European experience and it may not necessarily represent offshore environment in the US waters, where several offshore wind farms are being planned. For these reasons, it is of interest to investigate how uniform is the reliability of offshore wind turbines under various levels of wind and wave loads. We evaluate the reliability index, which is a measure of the probability of failure, for the ultimate limit state associated with the fore-aft tower bending moment at the mudline for offshore wind turbines with fixed support structures. We compare reliability index for various values of characteristic levels and coefficients of variation of wind and wave loads, as well as for various ratios of hydrodynamic to aerodynamic loads. These parameters represent different sites and turbine designs. Using the combined wind and wave load effect model for offshore wind turbines proposed by Tarp-Johansen (2005), we show that the reliability levels are reasonably uniform under various combinations of wind and wave loads. This meets the intent of codes based on the LRFD. Since large diameter monopile support structures tend to be dominated by inertia forces, while jacket support structures with smaller diameter members are often dominated by drag forces, we also employ a more general wave load formulation that models both drag and inertia forces. We include this wave load model in the combined wind and wave load effect model for offshore wind turbines, and estimate resulting reliability levels. Results show that drag-only case results in smaller estimates of reliability index than the inertia-only case. Moreover, for inertia-dominated cases, reliability levels are found to be even more uniform than those for drag-dominated case.


Agarwal, P. and Manuel, L., “Towards Understanding Reliability Levels for Offshore Wind Turbines,” Special Session on Offshore Wind Energy, Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, TX, May 2011.