Giant yellow steel toilet plungers are on their way to the North Sea in the first stage of development of the world's largest wind farm. The revolutionary toilet plunger design cuts the costs of the foundations for offshore wind power generators by 20% and simplifies installation and maintenance because it doesn't require support cables. The "suction bucket" base will be quickly secured to the sea floor using jets of sea water and held in place by the suction of the seafloor. The first 2 foundations being hauled to sea now will serve as meteorology towers. Thousands of additional installations are planned to provide power for millions of homes in the U.K. and Germany. 9.6GW of output are planned to be installed by 2020 Because the foundation is 30% of the cost of an offshore wind power system, the suction design will ultimately save billions of dollars in the total cost of the wind farms.
The innovative suction-installed foundations that represent the first stage of construction at the world's largest offshore wind farm are now on their way to the site at Dogger Bank, 125 kilometres off the UK's east coast.
"This is the first deployment of the Bucket Foundation in UK waters," said Phil De Villiers, head of the OWA programme. "We're excited about what this means for offshore wind development. The foundations represent 30% of the total cost of a wind farm. Reducing the capital and installation costs could really make an impact on the viability of future projects."
This design is exciting for the east coast of the United States, too. It will be effective in the sandy and muddy bottoms that run from southern Maine to Florida. The conditions for installing and maintaining this foundation appear to be as good on the east coast as in the North Sea.
According to Søren Nielsen, technical director at Universal Foundation in Aalborg, Denmark, which developed the design, the secret is creating a quicksand around the rim of the 16-metre-diameter bucket, so it slips easily into the seabed.When the inverted steel bucket reaches the bottom, a pipe running up through the stem above sucks water out of the bucket. This causes water to flow into the bucket through the sediment, creating a sloppy quicksand at the rim. But when the bucket is in place, the pump is turned off, forming an extremely strong foundation.
"Trying to pull it out creates a vacuum in the bucket, like when you try to pull your foot out of wet sand on the beach," Nielsen said.