Substructure Design

Date:  Ongoing

Project Description: 

  • A collaborative research and development project to develop a new and improved universal sub-structure design
  • Initiated by Maritime Tidal Energy
  • The end product will be a universal design which, when built, will be easier to deploy and will support multiple, easy-to-access turbines

Objective: The objective of the tidal turbine substructure design project is to reduce the cost and risk of generating in-stream tidal energy

Action To Date: 

  • High level design objectives developed
  • Experienced team identified
  • Functional design project plan completed
  • Effort and cost assessment for phases one and two completed
  • Potential collaborators identified and encouraging discussions have been held with them

Preliminary Design Objectives:

 The goal of the project is to develop a third generation substructure design, that when built, would have the following features:

  • Ease of deployment – Capable of accommodating low cost deployment technologies.
  • Support for multiple turbines – Capable of attaching sufficient turbine capacity to generate 5 – 10 MW per substructure to lower substructure cost per MW.
  • Ease of access to supported turbines – Capable of presenting supported turbines above water for easy, low cost, low risk access, maintenance, removal and re-installation.
  • Flexible turbine interface structure – Capable of supporting the turbines of various key turbine designs, particularly those with large swept area so as to maximize economic viability of the overall system.
  • Location in the water column – Capable of locating turbines in the desired location in the water column, to maximize the site’s power potential while minimizing shipping and visual concerns.
  • Flexibility of sea bottom support (if located on sea bed)- Capable of adjusting sub-structure legs and/or bottom attachment strategies to accommodate various sea bottom surface levels and types.
  • Grid connection, monitoring and power electronics equipment support – Capable of efficiently housing required cabling and monitoring equipment and the power electronis so the system can export grid compliant power.
  • Longevity – Capable of a 25 year life without maintenance; 5 years for moving parts; and capable of servicing of moving parts above water.
  • Ease of decommissioning – Capable of being easily removed at the end of life without the use of expensive equipment.
  • Low construction, deployment, and maintenance costs per megawatt – Capable of being constructed, deployed and maintained at a cost per megawatt that is competitive with existing and planned devices and other forms of renewable energy such as offshore wind.

Solution: New Generation Standardized Turbine Substructure

40% of current tidal system’s live cycle costs are in

  1. Electrical infrastructure 7%
  2. Substructure 7%
  3. Installation 12%
  4. Service and maintenance 14%

New design will cut these costs in half (a 20% reduction in total life cycle savings):

  • Multiple-turbine design reduces electrical & substructure cost/MW
  • Standardization reduces fabrication costs
  • Offshore wind deployment technology reduces installation costs
  • Turbines easily brought to surface, reduces maintenance cost
  • Optimal water column placement increases efficiency

Standardization Creates Cost Competitiveness

  • Tidal energy costs are now ~25% higher than offshore wind
  • This difference can be eliminated
  • A 20% reduction in total life cycle costs makes tidal costs equal to wind costs
  • Represents $54 Billion/yr savings (world potential 800 TWhr/yr)
  • Offshore wind installations are now growing rapidly & attracting significant investment
  • With costs reduced, tidal will follow closely behind

Development Vision & Project

  • Creating a consortium of world-leading tidal developers
  • Consortium will design & patent a standardized next generation tidal turbine substructure
  • Substructure design will be licensed;
  • With option to lease tidal and wind turbine space on consortium-built substructure(s)

Project Execution: Stages of Design and Build


  • Requirements definition
  • Conceptual design
  • Detailed design specifications (with prototyping of selected design aspects as required)
  • Patent new design approaches and sell design/IP licenses

With option to:

  • Build Working Prototype
  • Lease of turbine space

Project Phases

  • Phase 1 – Consolidate design consortium & define business case
  • Deliverable – Phase 2 defined with funding committed by industry partners
  • Phase 2 – Develop substructure functional design specifications
  • Deliverable – Summary assessment of existing and planned substructures, a finalized requirements definition, functional design specifications and the technical and economic case for proceeding to Phase 3
  • Phase 3 Deliverable – Develop conceptual design
  • Deliverable – A conceptual design with associated patents and credible commitments to licence the Phase 4 design specs or lease space on the Phase 5 prototype
  • Phase 4 – Create detailed design specifications
  • Deliverable – Fabrication ready specification with successful prototyping of aspects requiring proof of concept and licence orders for specs or leases for space on Phase 5 prototype
  • Phase 5 – Build commercial size prototype and deploy
  • Deliverable – An easily deployed working substructure supporting multiple easy to access turbines with leases yielding impressive return on investment

Role of Maritime Tidal Energy: Maritime Tidal Energy is the catalyst for this project. By bringing together collaborators we can achieve the benefits of  cooperation.  Maritime Tidal Energy is acting as project manager, coordinating input from collaborators and the design team.

Read Tidal Today’s article on the Substructure Design Project