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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Civil Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Sanjay R. Arwade

Second Advisor

Don J. DeGroot

Subject Categories

Geotechnical Engineering | Structural Engineering


Offshore wind turbine (OWT) support structures account for 20-25% of the capital cost for offshore wind installations, making it essential to optimize the design of the tower, substructure, and foundation to the extent possible. This dissertation focuses on monopile foundations, as the vast majority (approximately 75%) of currently installed OWTs are supported by monopile structures. The objective of this dissertation is to provide information on the behavior of monopile support structures to better substantiate design and planning decisions and to provide a basis for reducing the structural material costs. In pursuit of these objectives, research is presented on the topics of hysteretic soil-structure damping (referred to as foundation damping), cyclic degradation of soil properties, and the impact of marine growth on OWT monopile support structures.

OWTs are lightly damped structures that must withstand highly uncertain offshore wind and wave loads. In addition to stochastic load amplitudes, the dynamic behavior of OWTs must be designed with consideration of stochastic load frequency from waves and mechanical load frequencies associated with the spinning rotor during power production. The close proximity of the OWT natural frequency to excitation frequencies combined with light damping necessitates a thorough analysis of various sources of damping within the OWT system; of these sources of damping, least is known about the contributions of damping from soil-structure interaction (foundation damping), though researchers have back-calculated foundation damping from “rotor-stop” tests after estimating aerodynamic, hydrodynamic, and structural damping with numerical models. Because design guidelines do not currently recommend methods for determining foundation damping, it is typically neglected. The significance of foundation damping on monopile-supported OWTs subjected to extreme storm loading was investigated using a linear elastic two-dimensional finite element model. A simplified foundation model based on the soil-pile mudline stiffness matrix was used to represent the monopile, and hysteretic energy loss in the foundation was converted into a viscous, rotational dashpot at the mudline to represent foundation damping. The percent critical damping contributed to the OWT structural system by foundation damping was quantified using the logarithmic decrement method on a finite element free vibration time history, and stochastic time history analysis of extreme storm conditions indicated that mudline OWT foundation damping can significantly decrease the maximum and standard deviation of mudline moment.

Further investigation of foundation damping on cyclic load demand for monopile-supported OWTs was performed considering the design situations of power production, emergency shutdown, and parked conditions. The NREL 5MW Reference Turbine was modeled using the aero-hydro-elastic software FAST and included linear mudline stiffness and damping matrices to take into account soil-structure interaction. Foundation damping was modeled using viscous rotational mudline dashpots which were calculated as a function of hysteretic energy loss, cyclic mudline rotation amplitude, and OWT natural frequency.

Lateral monopile capacity can be significantly affected by cyclic loading, causing failure at cyclic load amplitudes lower than the failure load under monotonic loading. For monopiles in clay, undrained clay behavior under short-term cyclic soil-pile loading (e.g. extreme storm conditions) typically includes plastic soil deformation resulting from reductions in soil modulus and undrained shear strength which occur as a function of pore pressure build-up. These impacts affect the assessment of the ultimate and serviceability limit states of OWTs via natural frequency degradation and accumulated permanent rotation at the mudline, respectively. Novel combinations of existing p-y curve design methods were used to compare the impact of short-term cyclic loading on monopiles in soft, medium, and stiff clay.

Marine growth increases mass and surface roughness for offshore structures, which can reduce natural frequency and increase hydrodynamic loads, and can also interfere with corrosion protection and fatigue inspections. Design standards and guidelines do not have a unified long-term approach for marine growth on OWTs, though taking into account added mass and increased drag is recommended. Some standards recommend inspection and cleaning of marine growth, but this would negate the artificial reef benefits which have been touted as a potential boon to the local marine habitat. The effects of marine growth on monopile-supported OWTs in terms of natural frequency and hydrodynamic loading are examined, and preliminary recommendations are given from the engineering perspective on the role of marine growth in OWT support structure design.