STORM project produces a multi-material connector for use in marine energy

Results achieved through the Specialized Thimbles for Offshore Renewable Marine (STORM) energy project have led to the development of a new multi-material connector for mooring applications.

A Jan. 9 announcement from Brunel University London said Tension Technology International Ltd (TTI), Brunel University London, Nylacast and European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) were part of the STORM project involved with designing and testing the multi-material connector primarily designed for floating wave energy converters (WEC).

The project’s entire cost is not immediately available, but the United Kingdom’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council provided a US$139,000 grant and Innovate UK also helped fund the project.

The connector has an outer portion that coats its inner core.

TTI designed the outer portion of the new connector that consists of Oilon, a low-friction nylon from Nylacast.

In January 2017, HydroWorld.com reported Wave Energy Scotland awarded $299,437 to a group led by TTI to develop two products for the wave energy industry: impermeable coated fabrics to provide compliant and thus load shedding/peak load resistant buoyant modules, and fiber rope load nets to encapsulate the buoyant modules, applying distributed restraint loads and agglomerating the distributed load back to a single structural point to connect to a WEC power takeoff.

Two Brunel departments, the Experimental Techniques Centre and the Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology, developed the Basaltium material inner core, which is made from recycled aluminum strengthened by basalt fibers.

EMEC said, “The innovation uses the next generation of nylon/AI composite materials which, when combined, exhibit higher strength, high corrosion resistance, low coefficient of friction and are lightweight. For offshore renewable energy devices, this will result in increased deployability, increased reliability and longer in-service times. This will yield an increase in energy output and improvement in safety, while reducing failures and offshore maintenance operations which will ultimately help reduce the levelized cost of energy for the industry.”

Many penguin-type wave energy converters float on the sea surface while the movement of the waves powers a turbine inside. The electricity they generate is harvested via cables embedded in its mooring ropes, which take a hammering from the sea and its wildlife.

In March 2017, Finland-based marine hydrokinetic energy company, Wello Oy, successfully installed its Penguin WEC at EMEC’s grid-connected test site at Billia Croo, off the west coast of Orkney, Scotland.

“Connectors between mooring ropes and the device are one of the main challenges for offshore renewable energy,” said Lorna Aguilano, research fellow from the Experimental Techniques Centre. “Generally, at the connector point, the ropes deteriorate and end up breaking, with big costs for retrieval. So, normally the ropes are changed every five years to avoid this.”

This new connector will last longer and could also be utilized by other types of offshore energy production.  

“Mooring systems are critical for the success of offshore floating renewable energy devices,” said Nigel Briggs, project manager at TTI.

“STORM has designed a new multi-material hybrid connector which we want to share with the industry. We want to bring together moorings experts, offshore energy developers and supply chain companies to share challenges and learning around marine mooring and discuss developing, testing and operating solutions for this vital marine energy subsystem.”

The development team will officially launch the connector Jan. 26 at the Marines Moorings Masterclass located at Brunel’s Uxbridge campus. The event, according to Brunel University London, “is designed to get offshore energy industries, including oil and gas, to swap notes about working with marine moorings.”

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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