The accuracy of predicted loads on offshore wind turbines depends on the mathematical models employed to describe the combined action of the wind and waves. Using a global simulation framework that employs a domain-decomposition strategy for computational efficiency, this study investigates the effects of nonlinear waves on computed loads on the support structure (monopile) and the rotor-nacelle assembly of a bottom-supported offshore wind turbine. The fully nonlinear (FNL) numerical wave solver is invoked only on sub-domains where nonlinearities are detected; thus, only locally in space and time, a linear solution (and associated Morison hydrodynamics) is replaced by the FNL one. An efficient carefully tuned linear-nonlinear transition scheme makes it possible to run long simulations such that effects from weakly nonlinear up to fully nonlinear events, such as imminent breaking waves, can be accounted for. The unsteady nonlinear free-surface problem governing the propagation of gravity waves is formulated using potential theory and a higher-order boundary element method (HOBEM) is used to discretize Laplace’s equation. The FNL solver is employed and associated hydrodynamic loads are simulated in conjunction with aerodynamic loads on the rotor of a 5-MW wind turbine using the NREL open-source software, FAST. We assess load statistics associated with a single severe sea state. Such load statistics are needed in evaluating relevant load cases specified in offshore wind turbine design guidelines; in this context, the influence of nonlinear wave modeling and its selection over alternative linear or linearized wave modeling is compared. Ultimately, a study such as this one will seek to evaluate long-term loads using the FNL solver in computations directed towards reliability-based design of offshore wind turbines where a range of sea states will need to be evaluated.

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