Robert Bird Group designed the Turbine Support Structures for Phase 1A of the MeyGen project. Four turbines are installed off the north coast of Scotland, together supplying 6MW rated capacity to the grid. This is the first stage of the planned 398MW MeyGen tidal turbine farm, and is the first project of its kind anywhere in the world. Sitting in 30-50m of exposed fast flowing turbulent waters where the Atlantic meets the North Sea, the steel tripod gravity foundations have been designed from first principles to enable year round turbine operation over a 25 year life with no maintenance.
The judges were impressed by the elegance of these prototype tidal turbines enabling this future tidal farm and the technology to be further developed.
Sitting in up to 50m of fast-flowing turbulent sea, with waves of around 15m, clearly presents uniquely extreme design conditions. To ensure 25 years of maintenance-free structure necessitated close collaboration between construction and scientific disciplines. In addition, the more ‘typical’ challenges of strength, short 40-minute construction windows, variable seabed surfaces, multi-directional currents and ever-changing orientation highlights the unique combination of challenges tackled in this project.
To solve these challenges without fixed foundations highlights the care and passion applied to the structural design. A minimalist, low-profile support structure with articulated feet not only satisfies the extreme challenges but also does so efficiently. The solution also minimises the use of material, construction costs and environmental impact on the seabed.
It is evident to the judges that the engineers involved worked hard to develop this world-first successful test from concept through to full-scale prototype, producing a structure of which they can be proud.