Fircroft: Blue Pilot project to deliver cheaper offshore wind farm installation

If you think this looks like a giant hammer… you’d be right.

An innovative new pile driver, the Blue Hammer, could reduce the costs and noise associated with the construction of offshore wind farms.
(Image via Fistuca).

The Blue Pilot project is an initiative of the Carbon Trust which includes partners E.ON, EnBW, Orsted, Statoil, and Vattenfall. The project aims to deploy the ‘Blue Hammer’, a new type of pile driver developed by Fistuca BV., a Dutch technology company founded as a spin-off from Eindhoven University of Technology.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the Blue Pilot project will reduce the costs and underwater noise associated with the construction of offshore wind farms.

The Blue Hammer is predicted to reduce underwater noise levels by up to 20dB (SEL), and potentially reduce the fatigue damage during installation on the pile by up to 90 percent. This could not only remove the need for underwater noise mitigation but also enable secondary steel to be pre-welded to the monopile before installation, potentially unlocking ‘transition piece free’ designs. Furthermore, by reducing the amount of time and number of operations carried out offshore, the innovative piling method could improve health and safety and result in a significantly lower installation cost.

It is anticipated that the Blue Hammer could produce lifetime savings of up to €33m to €40m for a 720MW offshore wind farm, which could shave a further €0.9 – 1.2/MWh off the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for new developments.

Speaking to The Engineer magazine, Jasper Winkes, founder and managing director of Fistuca, explained how the Blue Hammer works:

“It consists of a large water tank containing an open combustion chamber."

“Instead of using a steel ram the Blue Hammer uses a large water column that is thrown up in the air using the combustion of a gas mixture. The water then falls back, creating a long-lasting blow that pushes the pile into the soil.”

“This cycle is repeated until the pile is driven into the soil. The hammer produces a blow that lasts between 100 and 200ms (milliseconds), compared to 4-8ms for conventional pile drivers, while the force builds up and reduces gradually. This limits the acceleration and vibration of the pile, reducing noise. On top of that, the energy level is very high, more than six times higher than the largest hydraulic hammer in the industry, meaning fewer blows are needed.”

The Blue Pilot project will test the hammer offshore at a location in Dutch waters. The tests will take place during summer 2018 and high-level findings from the study will be made publicly available later this year.

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