EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Renewable Energy Marine Structures (REMS)

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: Sch of Aerospace, Transport & Manufact

Abstract

This proposal is for a Doctoral Training Centre to provide a new generation of engineering leaders in Offshore & Marine Renewable Energy Structures. This is a unique opportunity for two internationally leading Universities to join together to provide an industrially-focussed centre of excellence in this pivotal subject area.

The majority of informed and balanced views suggest approximately 180 TWh/year of offshore wind, ~300km of wave farms (19 TWh/year), 1,000 tidal stream turbines (6 TWh/year) and 3 small tidal range schemes (3 TWh/year) are desirable/achievable using David MacKay's UK DECC 2050 Pathways calculator. These together would represent 30% of predicted actual UK electricity demand. This would be a truly enormous renewable energy contribution to the UK electricity supply, given the predicted increase of electricity demand in the transport sector. The inclusion of onshore wind brings this figure closer to 38% of UK electricity by 2050.

RenewablesUK predicts Britain has the opportunity to lead the world in developing the emerging marine energy industry with the sector having the potential to employ 10,000 people and generate revenues of nearly £4bn per year by 2020.

The large scale development of offshore renewable energy (Wind, Wave and Tidal) represents one of the biggest opportunities for sustainable economic growth in the UK for a generation. The emerging offshore wind sector is however unlike the Oil & Gas industry in that structures are unmanned, fabricated in much larger volumes and the commercial reality is that the sector has to proactively take measures to further reduce CAPEX and OPEX. Support structures need to be structurally optimised and to avail of contemporary and emerging methodologies in structural integrity design and assessment. Current offshore design standards and practices are based on Offshore Oil & Gas experience which relates to unrepresentative target structural reliability, machine and structural loading characteristcs and scaling issues particularly with respect to large diameter piled structural systems. To date Universities and the Industry have done a tremendous job to help device developers test and trial different concepts however the challenge now moves to the next stage to ensure these technologies can be manufactured in volume and deployed at the right cost including installation and maintenance over the full design life.

This is a proposal to marry together Marine and Offshore Structures expertise with emerging large steel fabrication and welding/joining technologies to ensure graduates from the programme will have the prerequisite knowledge and experience of integrated structural systems to support the developing Offshore and Marine Renewable Energy sector. The Renewable Energy Marine Structures (REMS) Doctoral Centre CDT will embrace the full spectrum of Structural Analysis in the Marine Environment, Materials and Engineering Structural Integrity, Geotechnical Engineering, Foundation Design, Site Investigation, Soil-Structure Interaction, Inspection, Monitoring and NDT through to Environmental Impact and Quantitative Risk and Reliability Analysis so that the UK can lead the world-wide development of a new generation of marine structures and support systems for renewable energy.

The Cranfield-Oxford partnership brings together an unrivalled team of internationally leading expertise in the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of offshore structural systems and together with the industrial partnerships forged as part of this bid promises a truly world-leading centre in Marine Structures for the 21st Century.

Planned Impact

The major beneficiaries of this programme will be the Engineering Graduates, UK operators, power generation industry, manufacturing and service companies, UK Plc, the academic community, the REMS Centre activity and society in general.

The importance of Offshore & Marine Renewable Energy to the UK economy and the key issues and barriers to economic success have been highlighted in the main proposal which demonstrate the central role of technology in ensuring sustainable, secure energy. In addition, energy underpins UK manufacturing industry and its stable and reliable presence is imperative for economic competitiveness and security. To realise this future success, Offshore Renewable Technologies require leaders with both the knowledge and vision to grow UK Offshore Renewable Energy business. The REMS Centre will produce individuals who will provide such leadership to ensure that UK Offshore Renewable Energy can meet the future technical and business challenges needed to achieve domestic renewable energy targets and to compete globally. As noted by the ERA Foundation, increasing exports of manufactured goods is the only realistic way of addressing the imbalance in traded goods which accounts for a deficit of around 6%-7% of GDP equivalent to £40bn-£50bn. It is acknowledged that the development of innovative technology and its application is essential if this economic situation is to be reversed.

The REMS Doctoral Centre will generate at least fifty research programmes at doctoral level in areas of offshore renewable structures that have been selected by collaboration between industrial partners and academics from the two universities. The industrial input will ensure that the research programmes are relevant to furthering the interests of the business community and the academic input will ensure that the research is leading edge. The research programme will be an integrated one that will lead to an interdisciplinary network of highly skilled and knowledgeae engineers to support the industry with state of the art technology. At its height, the REMS Centre will be supervising at least forty students working on parallel and integrated research programmes. The wider academic community will also benefit from enhanced research capacity, the new knowledge generated and the scientific advances made. Impact will be quickly realised due to the applied nature of the research which will be embedded in companies at an early stage. The Centre will be outward-facing, continuously engaged with industry through both formal and informal events, such as the annual conference, links and contacts. In addition, we expect such a program to attract additional students from other external funding sources, such as via scholarships or self-funded students. The taught training program will be attractive to companies for CPD purposes, particularity with the support of Renewable UK.

Society at large will benefit from the Centre in a variety of ways. A key aspect of the REMS programme is the whole systems approach to delivering offshore & marine renewable energy structures. The REMS Centre aims to encourage industry to build on this approach in their organisational culture and practices. The Centre will support research on the impact of the environment on offshore installations and also on environmental impact. The findings of this work will lead to metrics that can form the basis of assessing environmental impact that can contribute towards the formulation of rational regulation and governance offshore. The outreach activities proposed for the Centre are aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding of the offshore renewable energy structures with the purpose of increasing public acceptance. The establishment of a viable renewable energy industry in the UK benefits society by securing an energy supply that is environmentally friendly and has the potential for significant wealth creation nationally and internationally.

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