Designing offshore renewable energy systems

How can we use innovative design to rethink our energy systems?

The challenge

The UK has a wealth of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy resources. However, current technologies are too expensive and under-developed to exploit these opportunities, compared to conventional fossil fuel sources and onshore renewables. The University is working with its industrial partners to resolve this problem, involving final year undergraduate students in Engineering Design.

What we're doing

Working with Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon PLC, one project is geared towards building the world’s first, man-made, energy-generating lagoon. When complete, the lagoon could produce a reliable source of electricity for over 155,000 homes, with an operational lifetime of around 120 years. It is also intended as the first of at least six tidal lagoons, capable of meeting approximately eight per cent of the nation’s electricity demand.

To realise this goal, technologies are needed that can reduce the cost of energy from future lagoons as they increase in scale and generating capacity. By developing a large-scale lagoon design near Blackpool as a case study, students have been investigating alternative solutions for the lagoon wall and turbine housings, while also exploring how to reduce construction costs and integrate other renewable technologies.

Another project, involving DNV GL and Atkins, is focused on innovative design solutions for floating platforms that would enable wind turbines to exploit the vast wind resources found at off-shore sites with water depths greater than 50m. Advised by some of the world’s leading industry experts including Henrik Stiesdal, who was responsible for the world’s first offshore wind farm in 1990, students have developed a novel floating platform design called OrthoSpar.

How it helps

By using standard components and manufacturing processes, Orthospar could significantly reduce manufacturing and assembly costs, while creating an easily accessible platform that can be adapted for a multiple turbine sizes. A scale model of the design has been tested in the University of Plymouth’s state-of-the-art Ocean Basin (Coast Lab), the results of which will be used to guide future development of the concept.

Both projects are testament to Bristol’s expertise, further evidenced by its position as Chair of the Partnership for Research in Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE), a network of world-class research institutions working on renewable solutions for the future.


  • Matt Mears (Tidal Lagoons)
  • Anna Gasslbauer (Tidal Lagoons)
  • Luis Lopez Bracey (Tidal Lagoons)
  • Lara Tulloch (Tidal Lagoons)
  • Rosiel Chen (Tidal Lagoons)
  • Isabella Barnes (Floating Off-Shore Wind Turbines)
  • Robbie Herring (Floating Off-Shore Wind Turbines)
  • Eloise Myers (Floating Off-Shore Wind Turbines)
  • Oscar Radevsky (Floating Off-Shore Wind Turbines)
  • Matthew Wincott (Floating Off-Shore Wind Turbines)

Paul Harper Contact

Dr Paul Harper, Faculty of Engineering

Partner organisations

  • Tidal Lagoon PLC
  • Mojo Maritime
  • DNV-GL
  • Atkins
  • University of Plymouth
  • Henrik Stiesdal 
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