E3 - Innovative sub-systems to provide higher and more consistent reliability and better performance.

E - Survivability, Reliability and Design

Status - published
Last updated on: 24/05/2022


Offshore renewable energy systems require maintenance and repair which is challenging in the ocean environment.


Innovative improvements in sub-systems that raise reliability and performance will reduce maintenance and repair requirements.

Context And Need

All offshore renewable energy systems involves complex equipment in a harsh and inaccessible environment. Offshore wind turbines require frequent visits for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Tidal turbines and wave energy devices also have a requirement for maintenance, and the reliability of some trial devices has been lower than planned.

This challenge could be tackled through fundamental improvements in designs, materials and manufacturing, to make sub-systems more reliable and perform better.


Develop new component solutions with innovative, materials, designs, operating principles to plug gaps in system reliability and to extend or expand device performance.

Impact Potential

New sub-systems that have higher performance and better reliability will reduce the maintenance costs of all types of offshore renewable energy system. This will contribute to continued cost reduction in offshore wind, and help to bring tidal and wave energy into commercial use.

Research Status

Current active projects:

  • Morphing-Blades: New-Concept Turbine Blades for Unsteady Load Mitigation
    Lead institution: University of Edinburgh

    Tidal turbines experience large load fluctuations due to the unsteady environment and the shear in the tidal flow. Mitigating these fluctuations without affecting the mean load would result in lower capital and operational costs. In this project we develop a morphing blade concept that achieves this goal by cancelling unsteady loads at the source.
  • FLOTANT (Innovative, low cost, low weight and safe floating wind technology optimized for deep water wind sites): The main objective of FLOTANT is the development of innovative solutions to improve the robustness and cost-efficiency of 10+MW wind turbine generators in deep waters (100-600m). This goal will be achieved through the design and test of specific components, as well as the assessment and optimisation of the construction, installation, operation and decommissioning techniques, in line with state-of-the-art practices and environmental constraints
  • Selkie: Selkie is an Ireland-Wales cross-border project led by University College Cork and Swansea University, in partnership with DP Energy, G&D Geosolutions, Marine Energy Wales and Menter Mon. This project aims to develop a streamlined commercialisation pathway for the marine renewable energy industry. The project has received funding from the European Union's European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme. Follow the project on Twitter.
  • Wave Energy Scotland: Wave Energy Scotland (WES) is driving the search for innovative solutions to the technical challenges facing the wave energy sector. Through our competitive procurement programme, we support a range of projects focused on the key systems and sub-systems of Wave Energy Converters. The aim is to produce reliable technology which will result in cost effective wave energy generation.
  • Offshore Wind Innovation Hub: The Offshore Wind Innovation Hub is the UK’s primary coordinator for innovation, focusing on offshore wind energy cost reduction and maximising UK economic impact.
  • Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence MEECE - The Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence is advancing the Welsh marine and offshore renewable energy sectors. Research, technology innovation and testing and demonstration, reduced cost of energy, improved reliability, and supporting the Welsh supply chain.

Previous projects include:

  • All Electric Drivetrain for Marine Energy Converters (EDRIVE-MEC): EDRIVE (EP/N021452/1) aims to tackle a fundamental weakness of current wave energy converters, namely the electro-mechanical Power Take-Off (PTO). EDrive will improve the PTO chain from generator through to grid interface by creating an all-electric solution. This will, in turn, address issues of reliability and maintainability.


Supergen ORE Hub - Flexible Funding Research

  • Advanced, Modular Power Take-Off Design for Marine Energy Converters
    Lead Institution: University of Edinburgh
    Harvesting untapped wave energy represents both an attractive solution to support the move towards a carbon-free society and a major technical challenge to develop reliable Power Take-Off (PTO) systems that convert mechanical motion into electrical power. In recent years, all-electric PTO systems have been proposed with an aim to reduce system complexity in order to increase reliability and, ultimately, reduce the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). This has led to the development of novel direct-drive generators that couple directly to the prime mover; the mechanical interface is therefore eliminated along with the wear and lubrication issues that have caused so many component failures in the wind energy industry. Despite the progress made in PTO design in recent years and the steps taken to reduce the LCOE of wave energy conversion, costs are still high compared to other renewable energy technologies where Operation and Maintenance (O&M) is still a key issue. The project aims to reduce O&M costs by improving PTO reliability and simplifying maintenance through the use of integrated, power electronics – electrical machine, modular design. This aim addresses a very relevant and timely challenge in wave energy conversion by a need to reduce LCOE initially to be competitive alongside other renewable energy sources, with the longer-term goal to compete with established fossil-fuel generation.
  • Smart piezoelectric metamaterials for partial discharge monitoring
    Lead Institution: University of Strathclyde

    The proposed research will improve the reliability and availability of offshore electrical infrastructure components via 3D printed, smart acoustic sensors which can be tailored to specific cable and junction properties and are robust in challenging environments. This proposal comprises the design and manufacture of a perovskite structured piezoelectric with an anisotropic response tailored to a cable termination and evaluation of its performance in terms of sensitivity gain and reliability of detection of partial discharges. The proposal comprises two streams of work which may be parallelized to some extent. Work under the first stream will examine the design space of the perovskite structured sensors in terms of modelling and experimentation to develop a proof-of-principle sensor. This sensor will be evaluated in terms of the sensitivity and signal to noise ratio in laboratory settings. The second work stream investigates an acoustic emission detection system, and the embedding of a tailored 3D printed sensor in a cable termination. This second stream will be carried out through an additional 6 months support from our Electrical Infrastructures Research Hub (EIRH) collaboration with ORE Catapult (OREC).
  • A hybrid and scalable digital twin for intelligent direct drive powertrain condition monitoring
    Lead Institution: University of Strathclyde

    As larger wind turbines with newer powertrain technologies are introduced in the offshore wind sector, state-of-the-art machine learning techniques that use past field data are no longer directly applicable. Operational alarms based on physical models of older turbines are often no longer valid with new powertrain technology. This represents a key vulnerability in the offshore wind sector. This project will develop a hybrid digital twin combining transfer learning and physical modelling approaches that will be able to model normal and abnormal behaviour for new turbines before operational data is available. As turbines move further offshore, operators are motivated to reduce the number of turbine visits for cost and safety reasons. The hybrid models proposed in this application could be used to reduce the number of powertrain inspection and service visits. The requirement for visits will be reduced through the digital twin providing additional health indicators and recommendations to the operators, and by adding confidence to the use of existing health indicators provided by SCADA and monitoring systems
  • Submerged bi-axial fatigue analysis for flexible membrane Wave Energy Converters
    Lead Institution: Swansea University

    Flexible membrane wave energy converters (mWECs) need novel elastomeric materials of high fatigue life that have reliable data. We will obtain submerged bi-axial fatigue data for novel graphene and carbon nanotube filled elastomers. mWECs have potential for significant cost reduction compared with rigid material WECs. Elastomeric composite membrane structures can simplify all aspects of WEC design including the primary mover, power take-off (PTO), and other sub-systems. The bottlenecks to their practical and large-scale commercial applications are twofold, polymers with small amounts of standard filler particles have low fatigue life; higher percentage filler creates unwanted energy dissipation during cyclic loadings. Additionally, most material data exists for uni-axial fatigue in ‘dry’ conditions. Therefore, we aim to synthesize ultra-low dissipative and high fatigue life filled polymers with the required stiffness to be used in flexible polymeric structures for wave energy. In this project, enhanced properties will be achieved by using a synergy of carbon black, graphene, and carbon nanotube within low dissipative natural rubbers (NR). One advantage of NR are the existing manufacturing routes for full scale, ensuring scalability for mWEC manufacture. A novel two part method: firstly material synthesis and characterisation through classical ‘dry’ experiments and secondly a brand new, state of the art, test facility for bi-axial fatigue in temperature controlled seawater will be used to bi-axially characterize fatigue life and dissipative properties to deliver trustworthy material data to enable new WEC designs.


Links to Industry Priorities:


We would also like to invite UK researchers and industry stakeholders within ORE to submit links to research projects, both past and present, for inclusion within the landscape.

Therefore, if you have a UK-based research project within an area of ORE that you feel is relevant to a specific research theme or challenge within the Research Landscape, click HERE to submit your research project to the research landscape


PhD projects in Offshore Renewable Energy

In order to better understand the breadth of ORE research currently being conducted in the UK, the Supergen ORE Hub has collated from its academic network, UK Centres for Doctoral Training and Industrial partners, a list of PhDs currently being undertaken in ORE.

Access a PDF of the list and find out more about including your PhD.

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