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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Durham University in £7.6 million partnership to develop wind power technology for the future

(14 July 2017)

A collaboration, which includes Durham University, has won £7.6m funding under the EPSRC’s Prosperity Partnerships call, to improve the country’s offshore wind power technologies, it was announced yesterday. 

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, made the announcement as part of a multi-million pound investment into research partnerships to strengthen links between the UK’s research base, industry and business partners.

Led by the University of Sheffield, along with partner universities Durham and Hull and business partners Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and DONG Energy, the five-year programme will address current and future challenges in order to reduce the cost of electricity from offshore wind.

Engineering experts from Durham University will work on projects aimed at reducing the operation and maintenance costs of offshore wind turbines to ensure the efficient running of wind farms and on projects connected to anchoring of offshore structures. Technologies being developed at Durham will include new methods and sensors for earlier detection of emerging faults before the turbines need to go off line, better turbine blade and tower inspections techniques, improved analytical models for seabed soils and better designs for seabed anchors. All of these developments are aligned with the overarching aim of the collaborative project which is to reduce the costs of offshore wind energy generation.

The bid to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding was developed as one part of ongoing interactions between the partners who have been brought together through the project Aura initiative which is led by the University of Hull. Aura combines academic expertise with industry know-how, bringing together multi-disciplinary excellence, knowledge and innovation for the offshore wind industry.

DONG Energy has a long-standing partnership with Durham University that includes supporting a Chair in Renewable Energy position at Durham Energy Institute, PhD research collaborations and endowing MSc scholarships for Durham University students each year since 2011. The funding announced today will enable both organisations to further strengthen their engagement over the next 5 years.

Simon Hogg, DONG Energy Professor in Renewable Energy at Durham University said, “We are delighted to be a partner in this great new initiative in the offshore wind sector. It will provide us with the perfect opportunity to take Durham’s relationship with DONG Energy to the next level, as well as opening the door to new collaborations with research workers at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and at the Universities of Hull and Sheffield. Further reducing the cost of energy from offshore wind is critical to the long-term sustainability of the industry. This will only happen if universities continue to innovate and deliver new concepts and techniques that industry can take forward to commercial deployment. Durham has a strong track record in this area. This new EPSRC Prosperity Partnership provides us and the other university partners with the ideal opportunity to make further strong contributions in this respect, through more than twenty research projects spread across the university partners all of which link directly to the technology development roadmaps of the business partners.”

Benj Sykes, UK Country Manager for Wind Power said, “This is a fantastic outcome for the future of the offshore wind industry. Since our partnership with Durham University began in 2011, we have provided funding of more than £2 million to support research to accelerate the advancement of offshore wind technology, which will ultimately help to lower costs. This further funding from the EPSRC demonstrates the Government’s support for this technology, and shows that industry, academia and Government are continuing to collaborate to maintain the UK’s status as the global leader in offshore wind.

The cost of offshore wind has come down so rapidly in the past few years, that in 2016 the industry beat the 2020 target it and the Government set in 2012, four years early. As we build more offshore windfarms in the UK, we are investing heavily in operations and maintenance activities so understanding if these costs can be reduced by “condition monitoring” is key in our aim to reduce costs further. As we continue to work closely with Durham University, and also in partnership with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, University of Sheffield and the University of Hull, we look forward to the outcome of bringing two global leaders in offshore wind together with world-class academic researchers to deliver solutions that will continue the cost reduction journey of offshore wind.”

DONG Energy is the global leader in developing and building offshore wind farms and has invested £6 billion in the UK. It has nine operating windfarms with a further three under construction and more in the development pipeline.

Jim Gilbert, Aura Research, Development & Innovation Lead at the University of Hull, said: “Through this collaboration, we are sharing significant industry resources and to advance knowledge in this rapidly growing industry cementing our relationship with the Universities of Sheffield and Durham, as well as Siemens Gamesa and DONG Energy, with the common goal of identifying and breaking down technical, operational and economic barriers to reducing the cost of offshore wind energy.

Research, development and innovation such as this will not only help the industry to drive down its costs but further establish the UK’s position as a world leader in the offshore wind sector, supporting the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. “

The EPSRC funding is part of Partnerships for a Prosperous Nation, a multi-million pound investment into research partnerships to strengthen links between the UK’s research base, industry and business partners. The partnerships see 10 universities lead 11 projects under the scheme. These will receive in total £31 million of government funding from EPSRC and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) - matched by a further £36 million from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, plus £11 million from universities’ funds, totalling £78 million in all. 

This project has received £3.8m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and £2.5m from Siemens and DONG, with the rest being made up by the three universities.


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