MARLIN Modular Floating Platform for Offshore Wind : Concept Assessment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Design Manufacture and Engineering Man


Project MARLIN will assess and develop a new concept for a modular floating platform system for offshore wind. The
project will confirm technical and commercial feasibility of the novel method of construction and deployment of floating
structures capable of supporting commercially relevant size wind turbines from ISO standard freight container-sized
modules. Current demonstrator concepts in floating offshore wind require infrastructure of the scale unavailable or
inaccessible in most of the world. Cost reductions needed to remove barriers to floating offshore adoption will come from
development of methods not requiring large infrastructure and use of cost-effective mass manufacturing methods for
making the construction modules.
The proposed modular approach, with specially designed smaller and lighter building modules that could be towed out to
sea for assembly, is significantly technically different from the current concepts and demonstrators. The concept will
resolve the issue of prohibitively high cost of construction, logistics, and deployment in floating offshore wind.
The main overarching research objective is to design the modules and the full structure, test those out as mathematical and
physical models, carry out wave tank and sea conditions testing, and development of the manufacturing method. The
project will deliver: design of a low-cost single module building block structure, design of a full modular configurable
structure, creating physical and mathematical models, tank tests and sea test of physical models, analysis of manufacturing
feasibility including a materials selection study and identification of coastal sites and new markets for adoption of the
Two of the University of Strathclyde engineering departments, AFRC and NAOME, will work together with the other
members of the consortium.
NAOME's role within the consortium is to develop a detailed hydrodynamic simulation model of the semi-submersible
concept for two different types of floating modules - a passive one and a dynamic one which can have its buoyancy and
orientation altered. Scaled models of the two module concepts under a range of different sea states representative of
where the wind turbines will be deployed will be conducted. The results will be measured and analysed and a report
provided to the lead partner on the findings from both tests and simulations.
AFRC's role is to develop a finite element (FE) model for the initial and refined modules, to determine their suitability in
terms of structural strength performance under different load cases. Once the best configuration for the module has been
determined, the AFRC will develop a FE model for two different configurations of the final structural assembly made with
the selected module and simulate the performance of the overall structures. A report will be provided, summarising the
findings. Due to the complexity of the project, the geographical spread of the partners and the close collaborative nature of
the project, AFRC will also support Frontier Technical in the management of the project.

Planned Impact

The project partners, Frontier Technical, the Port of Sunderland and Tarmac will receive the largest impacts from the
project. The outputs from the project will enable the partners to assess the viability of a new floating platform concept for
wind turbines which could reach a full annual production rate in 2025 of 27,000 modules equivalent to 271 5MW floating
platforms representing 1.35GW per annum installed capacity capability with a market penetration of 15%. With a profit
margin of 25% this would result in £250M profit per annum.
Global perspective
It is acknowledged and reflected in the UN/ BEIS policies, that the dependence on fossil fuels for power generation in this
country and indeed countries worldwide is unsustainable. More must be done to enable power from renewable energy
sources to take the place of fossil fuels in our energy mix. This is a challenge for developed countries such as the UK, even
with the latter benefiting from a subsidised renewables market. The deployment cost of any renewable energy solution
must be brought down to make it a feasible deployment option in the developing world. If these deployment costs can be
reduced, there is the potential for a step change in the developing markets. This project is aiming simultaneously to
contribute to solutions for all of the issues of the Energy Trilemma and the reduction in deployment costs of renewable
energy assets to meet the energy generation needs of developing countries, thereby contributing to the sustainable
development both in the UK and in the developing world.
The project is expected to have a significant economic impact in the following areas: inside the consortium: 1) form a basis
for Frontier Technical's economic activity with a prospect of becoming a significant revenue generator and employer; 2) for
the industrial partner(s): diversification into the marine structure business and further growth of business for those
companies in this sector; 3) engagement of suppliers inthe supply chain and outside the consortium: 1) contributing to the
regional economy growth in North East; 3) in the developing countries market the technology could transform the economic
fortunes of the coastal areas.
The social impacts of this project in the UK lie mainly within the international and national commitments to reducing
greenhouse gas emissions to limit the impact of climate change, and thereby safeguard society from its impacts. This work
could directly contribute to DBEIS policy on climate change mitigation and industrial strategy and Defra policy on climate
change adaptation. For developing countries, access to clean, affordable and reliable energy underpins all other policy
development to reduce social deprivation and improve the standard of living (ref: DFID 'Transforming Energy Access'
initiative). Currently this energy access is severely limited by the cost of deployment and infrastructure requirements that
are often either unavailable or prohibitive to develop. Unlocking this market could have underpin significant social
improvement in countries that need it most. It is anticipated also that social benefits will come though the impact on
regional employment and prosperity of the local economy in North East as the company grows. Staff and knowledge
retention within the region will help regeneration.
As with social impacts, the environmental impacts of this project at a policy level lie within the international and national
commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit the impact of climate change. At a project specific level, the
project will reduce the manufacturing carbon footprint of traditional fixed floating wind construction and look to use green
technologies wherever possible. The proposed technology is highly amenable to recycling and re-use and /or alternative
use of the modular units. Longer term benefits could also include green energy for aquaculture.


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Description All the milestones of project MARLIN planned for delivery by the University of Strathclyde participants; Naval Architecture Ocean Engineering (NAOME) and the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) have been completed and reported on time. The technical programme included the design and construction of a sub-scale test model, choice of materials, mass property estimation and instrumentation for tank testing:
a) Construction of test model including bespoke load measurement system
b) Design of experiment program in regular and irregular waves
c) Execution of model test program
d) Analysis of platform motion results to produce motion response amplitude operators
e) Analysis of load results to produce platform load response
f) Comparison of model test results with numerical data, and verification of previous study.
g) Finite element analysis of assembly of modules (with inputs from the NAOME hydrodynamics model)
h) Modelling and simulation of quarter scale module (hex-shape and cylindrical shape)

Following successful completion of the project the following outcomes have been achieved:
The key elements of the MARLIN technological approach to creation of a modular floating platform have been researched and analysed. Additional capability have been developed within the AFRC to carry out structural analysis by various methods including FEA of floating marine structures made from marine grade steel and other materials. This capability will allow the AFRC to develop further projects with the same commercial partner in the next phases of MARLIN technology development with other partners from the marine sector and academic partners in this area.
Exploitation Route The EPSRC element of this project was a small aspect of a larger programme funded by Innovate UK. A number of aspects of the wider project are subject to commercial sensitivities and agreements with non-academic partners - the overall programme was monitored and reported back to Innovate UK. There has been a follow on project funded by an Impact Accelerator award.
Sectors Energy

Description The work carried out on the project led to a successful application for an Impact Accelerator Account (IAA) Project which commenced on 19th February 2018. The IAA research will examine different applications of modular units. Development is underway on further (non-EPSRC) joint projects with Frontier Technical (Lead Partner) to support the next phase of the technology and business evolution. The University of Strathclyde have supported Frontier Technical in preparation for the Rushlight reporting and investor pitching event pitching event in London on the 25th of January 2018. It is expected that Frontier Technical will use the outcomes of the feasibility project to pitch to investors in March 2018. The project has received interest from Scottish Enterprise and SDI regarding further funding for Frontier Technical activity in Scotland. More recently - as of January 2020 - a follow on project (MARLIN STAR) was awarded £1.5m from Innovate UK Energy Catalyst Round 7.
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic