The design standard typically used for offshore wind system development, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61400-3 fixed-bottom offshore design standard, explicitly states that “the design requirements specified in this standard are not necessarily sufficient to ensure the engineering integrity of floating offshore wind turbines” [1]. One major concern is the prescribed simulation length time of 10 minutes for a loads-analysis procedure, which is also typically used for land-based turbines. Because floating platforms have lower natural frequencies, which lead to fewer load cycles over a given period of time, and ocean waves have lower characteristic frequencies than wind turbulence, the 10-min simulation length recommended by the current standards for land-based and offshore turbines may be too short for combined wind and wave loading of floating offshore wind turbines (FOWTs). Therefore, the goal of this paper is to examine the appropriate length of a FOWT simulation — a fundamental question that needs to be answered to develop design requirements.

To examine this issue, we performed a loads analysis of an example FOWT with varying simulation lengths, using FAST, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) nonlinear aero-hydro-servo-elastic simulation tool. The offshore wind system used was the OC3-Hywind spar buoy, which was developed for use in the International Energy Agency (IEA) Offshore Code Comparison Collaborative (OC3) project, and supports NREL’s offshore 5-MW baseline turbine. Realistic metocean data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and repeated periodic wind files were used to excite the structure. The results of the analysis clearly show that loads do not increase for longer simulations. In regard to fatigue, a sensitivity analysis shows that the procedure used for counting half cycles is more important than the simulation length itself. Based on these results, neither the simulation length nor the periodic wind files affect response statistics and loads for FOWTs (at least for the spar studied here); a result in contrast to the offshore oil and gas (O&G) industry, where running simulations of at least 3 hours in length is common practice.

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