As part of our #EdSustainabilityCareers campaign, Pete Clink, University of Edinburgh graduate of 2018, tells us how his engineering skills contribute to the reduction of carbon in the offshore wind industry.
I studied an MSc in sustainable energy systems at the University of Edinburgh after my MEng in mechanical engineering at Loughborough University. I am passionate about renewable energy and was very keen to find a career in this sector, which motivated me to study the masters at Edinburgh. After graduating from Edinburgh in 2018, I joined Atkins’ offshore structures team, where I worked on various offshore wind projects for three years before joining Wood Thilsted in 2021.
Wood Thilsted is a specialised offshore wind engineering consultancy, which has offices in the UK, Denmark, USA, Taiwan, Japan and Poland. Wood Thilsted offers a wide range of services to the offshore wind industry, particularly focusing on engineering consultancy associated with turbine foundations. This includes the geotechnical assessment, design of the foundation structures and transport & installation. The foundation structures reach lengths of more than 100m, part of which is embedded in the seabed, and the remaining part reaches around 20m above sea level.
I am currently in the secondary structures team, which I prefer to think of as the detailed structures team. My job is incredibly varied, which is the main reason I applied for a role in secondary structures. Our team designs the internal and external platforms, boat landing, access systems and other attachments for the monopile and transition piece foundations. We are also developing our secondary structures designs for jacket foundations. The platform designs are bespoke for each wind farm depending on the site conditions, fabricator, installation method and the client’s requirements. The external structures are particularly challenging, as they are exposed to significant wave loading. For some monopile foundations, the load on the external platforms due to extreme waves ‘running up’ the monopile can be equivalent to an Airbus A380 sitting on the platform! My daily tasks range from concept design to global structural modelling of platforms (using Autodesk Robot), calculations for local details (typically in Excel), finite element analyses, reporting, and all of the coding and automation that comes with these tasks. I also manage a small team of talented graduate engineers.
The offshore wind industry is an exciting sector to work in, as the massive growth of the industry means that innovation is essential to be competitive and to deliver on the large volume of projects. Innovation is evident both in the way that we work and in our designs. Coding, e.g. Matlab, Python, Visual Basic, LaTeX etc., is an incredibly useful skill to have as an engineer, as it allows you to automate analyses and reporting so that you can increase the speed of design, more easily implement optimisations and improve quality.
In terms of design innovation, the secondary structures team at Wood Thilsted is focused on reducing the embodied carbon in our structures, reducing weight, designing for ease of fabrication and operations, while always having an emphasis on safety. We are also developing an interesting design for monopile foundations without a transition piece (TP-less). Traditionally, secondary structures for monopiles are attached to a transition piece, which is then attached to a monopile, which is driven into the seabed. TP-less monopile foundations are becoming more common, where secondary structures are installed directly onto the monopile. These projects present lots of interesting design challenges, as there are many different ways to achieve this kind of design, as well as significant installation factors to consider.
Thanks, Peter, for this insight into engineering in the offshore wind industry.
Our blog on What’s special about a career in environment and sustainability is essential reading if you’re interested in this field.
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