UK and China join forces on projects to develop next generation of offshore renewable energy technologies

7 September 2017

Researchers from the UK and China will collaborate on five projects to develop the next generation of offshore renewable energy (ORE) technologies to enable the safe, secure, cheap and efficient provision of clean energy.

Offshore wind turbines

The collaborative, multidisciplinary three-year-long projects will use environmental science, technology and engineering to tackle key challenges affecting the development of ORE systems, such as offshore wind, wave and tide facilities, and maximise their environmental and socio-economic benefits. They will determine where the best energy resource is available and where it would be best to implement ORE technologies, and inform the development of technology so that structures are resilient to extreme events such as typhoons and earthquakes.

The latest data published by the government in 2017 showed that a record 47% of the UK's electricity was generated by clean energy sources in 2016. Overall, renewable sources - which include onshore and offshore wind, solar farms, hydroelectric dams and biomass - accounted for 25% of the UK's electricity generation.

In addition, the projects will:

  • showcase the potential of ORE technologies to provide a stable power supply for island and coastal communities, particularly in China, but also in UK offshore island communities
  • improve understanding of resources for ORE systems under different conditions between UK and China, all of which will move both countries closer towards a low carbon economy
  • help to understand and reduce the risk of extreme events and encourage sustainable development of ORE systems, which could kick-start floating design methods and help assess suitability of current standards and methods
  • help to reduce the uncertainty in resource and the potential power produced, while identifying and informing ORE system build sites. This research could underpin other aspects of ORE development, both engineering and policy.

The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and NERC are supporting the projects with almost £4 million of funding, which will be distributed from the Newton Fund. The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is providing support for all of the projects. The projects have been funded as part of the Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme.

Richard Harrington, Minister for Energy & Industry, said:

The UK is a world leader in offshore wind, which helps us meet our climate commitments while we grow the economy and create jobs. This £4 million investment will support collaborative research into the next generation of offshore technologies with one of our largest global trading partners, unlocking further opportunities for projects across the UK and the rest of the world.

NERC Chief Executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:

This research will develop the potential of offshore renewable energy technologies, integrating environmental science to provide a better understanding of the energy resources, the sustainable development of ORE systems, and where best to locate and deploy these systems to ensure a stable power supply with minimal environmental impact.

EPSRC Chief Executive Professor Philip Nelson said:

The Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) programme will build on a successful history of international collaboration between EPSRC and NERC in the UK, and the NSFC in China, across a range of topics. This multidisciplinary programme has already delivered invaluable research on reducing energy demand at the city scale, the integration of electric vehicles and grid-scale energy storage. These new projects bring together some of the leading minds in this field from the UK and China to increase our capacity to generate and distribute affordable, safe, clean energy.

NSFC President Yang Wei said:

Further advancing China's already world-leading renewable energy sector is an integral part of the country's 13th five-year plan and will help drive future economic growth and advance the cause of low-carbon development. As always, partnership with the UK in this field helps build upon both sides' complementary strengths in research and innovation and will definitely further strengthen our already productive bilateral relationship in the long run.

NSFC Deputy Director-General of the Department of Engineering & Material Science Professor Che Chengwei said:

In the long run, it is vital to develop high-efficiency clean energy for a sustainable society. We are delighted to see the ongoing development of UK-China research collaborations, and believe these newly-funded projects lead to positive outcomes that will further strengthen bilateral cooperation.

The projects will ultimately promote economic development in China by bringing down the cost of energy, understanding the environmental processes that can lead to climate change as well as addressing the population welfare issues associated with reliance on fossil fuels.

Summaries of the projects

  • Resilient integrated-coupled FOW platform design methodology

    The vision of this multi-disciplinary project is to provide a foundation to develop and demonstrate an integrated approach to system resilience for ORE in China and the UK, improving energy security while reducing environmental impacts. The proposal builds on environmental resource assessment techniques and data that enable enhanced characterisation methodologies with a focus towards localised environmental conditions and extremes. The engineering focus lies on the quantification and validation of the load reduction potential of novel floating offshore wind platform innovations.
    Led by: Professor Lars Johanning, University of Exeter, and Professor Bing Chen, Dalian University of Technology.
  • FENGBO-WIND: Farming the environment into the grid: big data in offshore wind

    The FENGBO-WIND project aims to utilise the newest developments in high-performance computing, physics-based modelling and data science to create a new generation of predicting capabilities that support the design and operation of more economical offshore windfarms, while assessing and seeking to minimise their environmental impact.
    Led by: Professor Mike Graham, Imperial College London, and Professor Yonghua Song, Zhejiang University.
  • Extreme wind & wave loads on the next generation of offshore wind turbines

    The aim of this project is to
    • improve the design methodology for offshore wind turbine farms
    • leading to a reduction in environmental impact
    • reduction in design uncertainties
    • ultimately reduced cost of energy.
    Key themes that will be addressed include: the modelling of the ocean environment in typhoon conditions in potential candidate areas for offshore turbines in China; the creation of realistic environmental load time-histories on turbines; analysis of the structural and geotechnical design of turbines under ultimate state limit and fatigue loadings; and activities aimed at the establishment of long-term collaboration between the UK and China partners.
    Led by: Professor Thomas Adcock, University of Oxford, and Professor Ye Li, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
  • Modelling, optimisation & design of conversion for offshore renewable energy (UK-China MOD-CORE)

    The project aims to advance the use of virtual prototyping in the design and optimisation of ORE power take-off (PTO) systems. Advances in virtual prototyping, which involves the use of numerical, analytical and empirical models to create and validate designs before the creation of physical PTO prototypes, can reduce the risks to offshore development through evaluation of difference performance and environmental metrics, and interactions between separate system aspects. It can also address operating challenges, such as availability, by revealing stress characteristics and confirming the effectiveness of operation and management strategies for electrical generators and power converters.
    Led by: Dr Alasdair McDonald, University of Strathclyde, and Professor Li Ran, Chongqing University.
  • Investigation of the novel challenges of an integrated offshore multi-purpose platform

    The project proposes a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling challenges facing the integration of different offshore technologies, such as renewable energy and aquaculture, in a multi-purpose platform (MPP) system, finding synergies in the manufacturing, installation, operation and decommissioning costs of the different facilities, lowering the overall cost. MPPs have the potential to save money, reduce overall impact and maximise socio-economic benefits. It will develop approaches to assess the feasibility of an MPP system and showcase this potential through two case studies, one focusing on an island community in China and one in the UK.
    Led by: Dr Maurizio Collu, Cranfield University, and Liang Zhang, Harbin Engineering University.

Tamera Jones
NERC media office
01793 411561

EPSRC Press Office
01793 444404


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

2. EPSRC is the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research. Their vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to research, discover and innovate. By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, EPSRC are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Their portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research they fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. They work collectively with partners and other research councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

3. The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with 18 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries. The Newton Fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through 15 UK delivery partners, which include the research councils, the UK Academies, the British Council, Innovate UK and the Met Office.

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