Substructure Models for Dynamic Analysis of Floating Wind Turbines and the Effect of Hull Flexibility

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In the simulation of floating wind turbines, a traditional rigid floater assumption becomes less valid while pursuing large size floating wind turbines with steel-efficient floaters. Up to date, hull flexibility still cannot be efficiently incorporated into aero-servo-elastic-hydro simulation tools, and the possible influence of hull flexibility has not yet been well-understood. Consequently, it is necessary to identify the significance of hull flexibility and the possible effect of it.

Recent researches have been investigating the influence of hull flexibility on substructural internal load, global responses and dynamics of the system. However, little has been done from a tower design perspective. Moreover, tower design for a floating foundation has also been seldom documented. To fill the knowledge gap, two research questions are defined: What is the difference in tower design with a floating foundation? and What is the effect of hull flexibility on tower design?

To answer the first research question, a FEM model with rigid hull is built based on four floating concepts designed for DTU 10MW wind turbine. The tower fore-aft bending natural frequencies are compared between fixed foundation and floating foundation. The second research question is answered by developing a FEM model with flexible hull based on a spar-buoy concept. The rigid hull model and the flexible hull model are compared by implementing structural analysis and fatigue damage estimation under waves load.

The result shows that the 1st tower bending natural frequency increases significantly(except for TLP) from a fixed foundation to a floating foundation, making it difficult to achieve a soft-stiff tower design. Furthermore, it is indicated that hull flexibility can decrease the 1st tower bending natural frequency, and the magnitude varies with different tower designs. A stiff-stiff tower decreases more while a soft-stiff decreases less. Lastly, the fatigue damage estimation implies that a soft-stiff design can be lack of fatigue strength to survive from waves load.

In conclusion, a soft-stiff tower design is difficult for large size floating wind turbine partly due to the increase in 1st tower bending natural frequency from fixed foundation to floating foundation, and partly because of strength requirement for fatigue load. As for a stiff-stiff tower design, without considering hull flexibility, there is a high uncertainty in the 1st tower bending natural frequency. As a result, for large size floating wind turbines, inclusion of hull flexibility is necessary for the tower design.