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TWI to develop fabrication route for wind turbine foundations

Connect, no. 165, March/April 2010, p.3

A proposed novel design of wind tower foundation, fabricated from flat plate. This multi-faceted approach to fabrication has the potential to meet the increasing capacity for wind farms at a reduced cost

A proposed novel design of wind tower foundation, fabricated from flat plate. This multi-faceted approach to fabrication has the potential to meet the increasing capacity for wind farms at a reduced cost

TWI has recently been awarded a £500k project (FabFound) funded by the Northern Wind Innovation Programme along with project partners RCID at Newcastle University, SEtech, Parsons Brinckerhoff, McNulty Offshore Construction, Vattenfall Wind Power, Scottish Power Renewables and Clipper Windpower Marine.

It is anticipated that there will shortly be a market for offshore turbines that significantly outstrips the current manufacturing capacity. FabFound aims to use a new and innovative fabrication process for wind turbine foundations to allow the necessary production capacity to be met.

Currently, several foundation concepts are being considered, including monopiles, tripods and braced jacket structures all of which are manufactured from steel tubular sections.

The largest of these are fabricated by rolling thick plate and welding longitudinally. Rolling thick plate (>100mm) requires specialist rollers and hence incurs capital expense and limits the number of facilities capable of carrying out the process. It is also a time consuming process and the length of each ring is restricted by the width of the rollers, commonly to approximately three metres.

The novel multi-faceted design proposed in FabFound is fabricated from strips of flat plate welded together thus eliminating the rolling step. This allows sub-assemblies of perhaps 10m in length to be manufactured, reducing the number of on-site welds necessary in the tower construction. This approach is enabled through the use of rapid thick section welding techniques for the longitudinal seams.

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Over the next 12 months, the project will generate new foundation designs (optimised for rapid manufacture) that can be fabricated from readily available flat steel plate with only minimal processing required prior to joining by novel high speed welding techniques. The designs will be examined structurally and geo-technically and will be qualified for use.

The entire production route will be examined (facilities required, metal supply, joining processes, materials handling, etc) in terms of performance, logistics and economic viability.

The aim of the project is to increase the foundation manufacturing capacity of the UK, and specifically to position the consortium and other fabrication/supply chain companies in the Northern Way regions to be ready to address the requirements of an emerging market for high power (>3.6MW) marine wind turbine foundations.

For more information, please contact us.

For more information please email:


contactus@twi.co.uk