How do you build a foundation at sea, such as for a wind turbine or an oil and gas platform? This requires up-to-date knowledge of (underwater) noise during pile driving, protection against corrosion and the use of lighter materials, especially now that offshore wind turbines are getting bigger and bigger. TNO is helping industry to extend the boundaries through test set-ups and simulations.

“We can solve many technical problems, but we have to do so economically and responsibly,” says Haico van der Heijden of TNO. “Our country is somewhat of a forerunner in this respect. Nowhere in the world are wind farms being realised without the involvement of a Dutch party. Because it’s such a large industry, we at TNO are making sure that we stay on top of things and understand what’s going on.” 

Measuring underwater noise 

One of the main challenges when installing foundations is noise. Van der Heijden: “We have decades of experience in measuring underwater noise, especially when it comes to the defence of naval vessels and the protection of marine mammals. We are now using the knowledge we have gained to lay foundations in much more noise-friendly way. This is related to the next challenge: what does the increasing size of foundations mean for corrosion?” 


Corrosion inspections are currently done by divers. “The question, however, is what they should assess. Everything is overgrown, so they don’t see much anyway. And when is it really critical? On top of that, a diver can inspect a platform for the oil and gas industry, but a wind farm can easily have a hundred windmills. This makes inspection insufficiently practical and profitable. That’s why we’re using new sensors and measuring techniques to investigate how we can do this more smartly.” 

Computer simulations and test set-ups 

In this research, TNO combines computer simulations with lifelike test set-ups. “Testing is expensive and takes a lot of time, so it’s important to do simulations,” continues Van der Heijden. “But you still have to regularly check whether the calculations are correct. This certainly applies to newer materials, such as composites. A composite behaves differently to steel, so naturally we take that into account in our modelling for industry.” 

Would you like to know more about TNO’s research into foundations or do you see opportunities to contribute to this?

Please contact Martijn van Roermund


Ir. Martijn van Roermund

  • Maritime Structures
  • Safety alternative fuels
  • Offshore wind
  • Structural Dynamics
  • Structural Reliability