Optimal solutions for offshore wind turbines (OWTs) are expected to vary from those of their onshore counterparts because of the harsh offshore climate, and differences in loadings, transportation, access, etc. This definitely includes the support structures required for service in the sea. Lattice towers might be a competitive solution for OWTs due to less physical impact from waves and less concern for visual impact. This paper addresses the design methodology of lattice towers for OWTs in the ultimate limit state and presents a FEM code that has been developed to implement this methodology. The structural topologies are specified in terms of tower cross-section geometry, the inclination of bracings, and the number of segments along the tower height. For each topology a series of towers is designed in which the bottom distance between the legs has been varied; the resulting tower mass is evaluated as a major parameter for the cost assessment. The study was conducted using the NREL 5-MW baseline wind turbine for an offshore site at a water depth of 35 m. The optimal design is searched for according to tower mass and fabrication complexity. The most economical tower geometry appears to have a constant inclination of bracing owing to its simplicity of fabrication and strong antitorsion capacity. Three-legged and four-legged alternatives have different advantages, the former having simpler geometry and the latter offering better torsion resistance. As a design driver for offshore steel structures, the fatigue life of the towers designed in the ultimate limit state should be assessed and the structures are consequently modified, if necessary. However, fatigue assessment is out of the scope of this paper and will be done in a later work.

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