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Foundation test pit in the new Test Center Support Structures: Construction methods and the anchoring of offshore wind turbine foundations to the seabed are being tested here.
© Leibniz Universität Hannover
Test Centre for Support Structures
Projektinfo 05/2015

The Test Center Support Structures
© Leibniz Universität Hannover
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Testing towers and foundations

Manufacturers are offering ever larger and more powerful wind turbines for utilising wind power. As the wind turbine sizes increase, the wind and weather take an increasing toil on the structures and turbine components. Hanover University’s Test Center Support Structures opened in 2014 to enable the components used for the tower and foundations to be tested and optimised in advance. Here components made of steel, concrete and other materials are tested to their limits.

In the Test Center Support Structures, forces equivalent to wind force 10 tug on wind turbine components and shake the material vigorously. In the hall itself, however, not the slightest breeze can be felt. The scientists use mechanical power in the test rigs to exert extreme loads on models of towers, masts and foundations as well as on components and screws. In practice, these loads are caused by the wind and the movement and twisting it induces in the rotor blades and nacelle. With offshore wind turbines, the waves, currents and the interaction of the wind and waves also come into play. Wind turbines need to reliably withstand all these forces for at least 20 years. The economic viability plays a role in this regard in two ways: the investment costs need to be minimised without sacrificing reliability, whereby components that are constructed too solidly and which also do not provide any additional stability incur unnecessary material and installation costs.

The new centre has two large test rigs: the foundation test pit and the clamping field. Support and foundation structures for offshore foundations and associated construction methods are investigated at a scale of 1:10 in the 10-metre-deep pit filled with sand. Models of support structures at a scale of 1:5 are clamped in the clamping field and subjected to multi-axial loading. One of the aims is to investigate the fatigue behaviour.

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The facilities at the centre are rounded off with special laboratories for concrete, fibre composite materials and geotechnical investigations along with a resonance testing machine and a climate chamber. This results in reproducible data for extreme and cyclic loading of components and materials. Three to four months are required in the hall to simulate the requirements during a wind turbine’s entire lifespan. The interplay of models, large-scale experiments and numerical calculations make it possible to design wind turbines more precisely and to validate simulation programmes. Leibniz Universität Hannover operates the Hanover Test Center Support Structures together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology, IWES, as its cooperation partner.

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