Beyond many of the Earth’s coasts exist a vast deepwater wind resource that can be tapped to provide substantial amounts of clean, renewable energy. However, much of this resource resides in waters deeper than 60 m where current fixed bottom wind turbine technology is no longer economically viable. As a result, many are looking to floating wind turbines as a means of harnessing this deepwater offshore wind resource. The preferred floating platform technology for this application, however, is currently up for debate.

To begin the process of assessing the relative advantages of various platform concepts for floating wind turbines, 1/50th scale model tests in a wind/wave basin were performed at MARIN (Maritime Research Institute Netherlands) of three floating wind turbine concepts. The Froude scaled tests simulated the behavior of the 126 m rotor diameter NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) 5 MW, horizontal axis Reference Wind Turbine attached via a flexible tower in turn to three distinct platforms, these being a tension leg-platform, a spar-buoy and a semi-submersible. A large number of tests were performed ranging from simple free-decay tests to complex operating conditions with irregular sea states and dynamic winds. The high-quality wind environments, unique to these tests, were realized in the offshore basin via a novel wind machine which exhibited low swirl and turbulence intensity in the flow field. Recorded data from the floating wind turbine models include rotor torque and position, tower top and base forces and moments, mooring line tensions, six-axis platform motions and accelerations at key locations on the nacelle, tower, and platform. A comprehensive overview of the test program, including basic system identification results, is covered in an associated paper in this conference.

In this paper, the results of a comprehensive data analysis are presented which illuminate the unique coupled system behavior of the three floating wind turbines subjected to combined wind and wave environments. The relative performance of each of the three systems is discussed with an emphasis placed on global motions, flexible tower dynamics and mooring system response. The results demonstrate the unique advantages and disadvantages of each floating wind turbine platform.

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