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Study on Load-bearing Characteristics of Different Types of Pile
Group Foundations for an Offshore Wind Turbine

Study on Load-bearing Characteristics of Different Types of Pile
Group Foundations for an Offshore Wind Turbine

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SI

73

533-541

Winter 2015

Group Foundations for an Offshore Wind Turbine

Ruiqing Lang, Run Liu*, Jijian Lian, and Hongyan Ding

State Key Laboratory of Hydraulic Engineering Simulation and Safety

Tianjin University

Tianjin 300072, China

www.cerf-jcr.org

ABSTRACT

Lang, R.; Liu, R.; Lian, J., and Ding, H., 2015. Study on load-bearing characteristics of different types of pile group

foundations for an offshore wind turbine. In: Mi, W.; Lee, L.H.; Hirasawa, K., and Li, W. (eds.), Recent

Development on Port and Ocean Engineering. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 73, pp. 533-541.

Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

www.JCRonline.org

Elevated pile-cap foundation is one of the most popular foundation types for offshore wind turbines. Form selection

and design are the keys in the construction of offshore wind farms. Because offshore wind turbines are high-rise

structures, a reasonable and applicable foundation can ensure the normal operation of wind turbines. Meanwhile, it can

decrease the size of foundation and reduce the cost of construction effectively. Four types of pile group foundations

named BPG-type, SPG-type, VPG-type, and CPG-type are developed. Combined with laboratory model experiments, a

numerical simulation method is established and verified in this paper. The vertical bearing capacity, horizontal bearing

capacity and bending bearing capacity are studied comparatively with the numerical simulation method. Combined

with practical engineering, the applicability of the foundations is evaluated. The results indicate that BPG-type and

SPG-type have the stronger vertical bearing capacity, horizontal bearing capacity and bending bearing capacity than

VPG-type and CPG-type in the same amount of steel. In addition, batter piles can effectively increase the bearing

capacity of pile foundations. The VPG-type needs to increase the size of foundation to meet the requirements of wind

turbine operation. In practical engineering, the combination of vertical piles and batter piles can increase the bearing

capacity of pile group foundations and decrease the cost of construction.

ADDITIONAL INDEX WORDS: Elevated cap, pile group foundation, vertical bearing capacity, horizontal bearing

capacity, bending bearing capacity.

________________________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION

Wind power has been favored by several countries in recent

years (Zhang et al., 2013). Influenced by a complex

combination of loads including the wind loading and wave

loading, the large horizontal loads and moments are transferred

to the foundations of wind turbines, which have huge shape and

high tower. Therefore, the foundations which support the

superstructure have been required at a higher standard.

Currently, the types of foundations used for offshore wind

turbines include large-diameter single pile, pile group, tripod,

jacket, gravity base, bucket, floating, etc (Byrne and Houlsby,

2006). The pile group foundations have been widely used in

offshore wind farms in China. The Donghai Bridge Offshore

Wind Farm is the Asia's first large-scale offshore wind farm to

use a high-rise cap pile group foundation successfully (Lin et al.,

2007). It is useful and meaningful for developments of theoretic

study, simulation method and engineering constructions to study

the complex load carrying mechanism of pile group foundations

in offshore (Byrne and Houlsby, 2003; Matutano et al., 2014;

Soldo, Ivandic, and Babic, 2005).

Currently, several domestic and foreign researchers have

____________________

DOI: 10.2112/SI73-093.1 received 6 August 2014; accepted in revision 6

November 2014.

*Corresponding author: liurun@tju.edu.cn

Coastal Education & Research Foundation, Inc. 2015

different types of foundations. Accurate approximate

approaches to the analyses of pile groups including batter piles

were proposed (Hsiao, 2012). In the study on horizontal bearing

capacity, a full-scale lateral load test was conducted on a

batter-pile group foundation to study the horizontal bearing

characteristics of inclined piles. A seventh-order polynomial

curve fitting method was proposed to deduce the bending

moment and the shear force (Abu-Farsakh et al., 2011; Pathak

et al., 2011). It was determined that the inclined pile had an

advantage in resisting horizontal forces through the analysis of

inclined piles (Kavazanjian, 2006; Kim and Brungraber, 1976).

In the study on vertical bearing capacity of batter piles, it was

indicated that an inclined pile had a greater horizontal resistance

compared to that of a vertical pile (Lv, Yin, and Jin, 2011;

Zhang, McVay, and Lai, 1999). Vertical bearing and settlement

features were simulated for large-diameter and super-long steel

pipe piles in FLAC3D. The pile lateral friction resistance

changed intricately with depth, which was closely related to the

soil characteristics (Zhang et al., 2011). The loading transfer

mechanism of piles was summarized that load sharing behavior

of piles and soil were comparatively studied through the

comparison of the model test results of single pile foundation,

single pile foundation with cap and vertical pile group

foundation with different space length (Zhang et al., 2005). The

vertical bearing capacity of a special pile group of platform in

534

Liu et al.

effect was studied with several methods, including the method

of linear elastic theory recommended by the Code of Pile

Foundation in Port Engineering (JTJ254-98), and the method

based on the existing results of pile group model test (Zhuo et

al., 2012). Numerical analysis methods involving finite element

method (FEM) were widely used to understand the bearing

capacity behavior of piles and then numerical methods were

established (Ribeiro and Paiva, 2014; Zhan, Wang, and Liu,

2012). The model of a super-large pile group was developed to

study the mechanical action, the distribution feature of internal

force and the deformation behavior of pile group under

horizontal load (Xie et al., 2005). Besides, other methods were

also proposed to study the pile vertical bearing capacity (Cao,

Zhao, and Liu, 2011; Liu, Wang, and Yan, 2013).

The above-described findings provide good references

regarding the application of pile group foundation in the field of

offshore wind power. However, there is less study in the

bending bearing capacity, which is especially important for the

foundations of wind turbines. Load demands have been changed

so the design of larger wind farm has become more important

(Kenan and ztrk, 2012; Liu, Yan, and Li, 2009) and

geological conditions are complicated. Therefore, new types of

foundations are needed to ensure the wind turbines operate

safely, and the applicability of different types of pile group

foundations in this area is needed a further exploring.

To study and develop new types of the high-rise cap pile

group foundation, which are conducted by an offshore wind

power research team in Tianjin University, a numerical

simulation method with the finite element analysis software

program ABAQUS is established and verified based on model

test (Hibbitt and Sorensen, 2002). The vertical, horizontal and

bending bearing capacity are studied comparatively. Combined

with practical engineering, the applicability of the foundations

is evaluated. The results provide a basis for the optimization

design of a pile foundation in the offshore wind farm.

PROJECT OUTLINE OF DIFFERENT TYPES

FOUNDATIONS

The foundations of wind turbines bear relatively small

vertical load, large horizontal load and moments, which are the

load characteristics of wind turbine foundations (Tang, Shao,

and Liu, 2012). The horizontal displacement of the top of the

foundation is large and difficult to control under a large moment.

Wind turbines are such high-rise structures that they are

particularly sensitive to horizontal displacements (Guo, Lu, and

Qiu, 2012), therefore how to effectively reduce the

displacement of the top of the foundations and ensure the good

operation of wind turbines become an important concern in

designing a offshore wind farm. Based on the strong vertical

bearing capacity of the large-diameter pile, the strong horizontal

bearing capacity and flexural capacity of the inclined piles, an

offshore wind power research team in Tianjin University has

studied and developed four types pile group foundations, named

BPG-type, SPG-type, VPG-type and CPG-type, as indicated in

Figure 1.

As shown in Figure 1, SPG-type consists of a large-diameter

pile and several small diameter and buried length inclined piles.

The inclined piles are evenly distributed along the control circle,

consists of several inclined piles, which are evenly distributed

along the control circle. CPG-type includes several vertical piles

which are connected by the cap. VPG-type includes several

inclined piles and vertical piles, which are cross-evenly

distributed along the control circle.

MODEL TESTS AND NUMERICAL SIMULATION

METHOD

Model Tests

As indicated in Figure 2, the model test apparatus consists of

three parts: a model tank, a loading system and a data capture

system. The net dimensions of the model tank are 1.2 m1.2

m1.5 m. The loading system includes a vertical hydraulic

loading system and a horizontal motor loading system. The

vertical hydraulic loading device is divided into a three-phase

induction motor and a single-acting hydraulic cylinder. A

frequency-variable three-phase asynchronous motor, a pulley

and wire ropes jointly constitute the horizontal motor loading

system. The data capture system consists of sensors and a

collector. The sensors include pull-press sensors, a dial gage for

displacement and a depth sensor. The real-time data is passed

on to the computer through the dial gauge.

The testing sand was sea sand. The thickness of the soil was

1.5 m. The sea sand was filled into the model tank in a stratified

manner. The specific gravity of the soil grain was 2.67, and its

density was 1.60 g/cm3. According to the developed pile group

foundation named BPG-type, which consists of several inclined

piles, the elevated pile-cap foundation (length of the piles, L,

was 40 m, total numbers piles, n, was 9, inclination degree, ,

was 8, and diameter of pile, D, was 2 m) was selected as the

prototype of the model. Furthermore, the model featured a

scaled-down ratio of 1:100. The scaled-down parameters

included the diameter of the piles, the length of the piles and the

size of the cap. Due to the limits associated with the processing

materials, only the wall thickness, which has little effect on the

bearing capacity, was not scaled down completely to 1:100. As

indicated in Figure 3, the foundation model consisted of

seamless steel pipes. A weld was used to connect the piles and

cap.

Analysis of Test Data

Vertical Bearing Capacity

Vertical loading force was applied at the top of the cap, and

test data was organized. The load-displacement curve of the

foundation model is presented in Figure 4. The deformation of

the soil surface observed after the completeness of loading is

shown in Figure 5.

As indicated in Figure 4, the relationship between the load

and the displacement of the foundation is linear when the load is

small. With an increase in the load, the slope of the

load-displacement curve increases rapidly, and an inflection

point appears. The vertical bearing capacity of BPG-type is 5.4

kN.

As indicated in Figure 5, when the loading force is complete,

a local subsidence appears on the surface of the soil surrounding

piles, covering an area measuring three times smaller than the

diameter of a single pile. No large bulge appears on the surface.

535

Reaction Beam

Hydraulic cylinder

Dial gage

Pull-press sensor

Model

Motor

Model tank

The pricking destruction happens.

BPG-type

Horizontal loading force was applied at the top of the cap, and

test data was organized. The load-displacement curve of the

foundation model is presented in Figure 6. The deformation of

the soil surface observed after loading was complete is shown in

Figure 7.

536

Liu et al.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

16.0 kN/m3, Poisson's ratio is 0.3, the elasticity modulus is 24

MPa, the internal friction angle is 32 and the cohesion is 2 kPa.

The Mohr-Coulomb Failure Criterion is applied to the soil. The

foundation is assumed to be a perfectly elastic constitutive

model made of steel. The density of steel, , is 7,850 kg/m3, the

Youngs modulus, E, is 2.11011 Pa and Poissons ratio, , is

0.3.

Figure 9 reveals a comparison between the deformation of

soil under a single vertical load and a single horizontal load in

the numerical simulation with the test deformation.

BPG-type

V

M

H

H=1.5m

RP

R=1.2m

Figure 8. Loads on finite element model used in analyses.

(a)

BPG-type

and the displacement of the foundation is linear when the load is

small. With an increase in the load, the slope of the

load-displacement curve increases rapidly, and an inflection

point appears. The horizontal bearing capacity of the foundation

model is 496 N.

As indicated in Figure 7, a local depression appears in the

direction of load behind the model. Under the small influence of

the depression, deformation appears on the surface of the soil

surrounding piles. However, a complete deformation does not

appear.

Numerical Simulation Method

Based on the actual size of the laboratory model test, the

BPG-type experiment was simulated. The numerical analysis

model is provided in Figure 8.

To eliminate the side effect, the size of simulated soil takes

the actual size of the laboratory model test. The unit weight is

(b)

Figure 9. Comparison between FEM results and test deformation of pile

groups: (a) Vertical loads; (b) Lateral loads.

simulation and test deformation are relatively similar. The

sinking of the soil affects the soil nearby and forms a local

subsidence. However, there is no integral settlement throughout

the soil. A significant stress concentration appears in the area of

contact and spreads to the surrounding soil. Obvious uplift

appears on the soil under the control circle of BPG-type in both

test and simulation.

As indicated in Figure 9(b), the deformation in the numerical

simulation and the test deformation are relatively similar. When

loading procedure is complete, significant traces of movements

of the piles appear, which causes the soil near the piles to

deform. However, the effective range of deformation is limited,

and a complete deformation does not appear.

Figure 10 compares the test and simulated load-displacement

curves of BPG-type.

As indicated in Figure 10, the simulation curves and the

measured curves are relatively similar. Inflection points appear

in both of these curves. The vertical bearing capacity of the test

system is 5.4 kN, whereas that of the simulated system is 5.5 kN.

The horizontal bearing capacity of the simulated system is 500

N, whereas that of the test system is 496 N.

537

RP, which is located at the top of the caps. In this simulation, V

indicates a vertical load, H indicates a horizontal load, and M

indicates a bending moment load.

Comparison of Vertical Bearing Capacity

Under a vertical load, the load-displacement curves of

different foundations and the plastic region of soil (PEEQ) are

presented in Figure 11. In this figure, u indicates a vertical

displacement.

(a)

(a)

(b)

Figure 11. Results of pile group foundations: (a) Load-settlement curves

of foundations; (b) Distributions of PEEQ.

(b)

Figure 10. Load-settlement curves of new types of pile group: (a)

Vertical loads; (b) Lateral loads.

Table 1. Parameters of soils in FEM simulation.

Poisson's

Unit Weight

ratio

/(kN/m3)

7.0

0.3

Internal

Elastic Modulus

Cohesion

Friction angle

E/(MPa)

c/(kPa)

/()

30.0

0

10.0

in this report is applicable to the simulation of high-rise cap pile

group foundations.

ANALYSIS OF BEARING CAPACITY OF DIFFERENT

TYPES OF FOUNDATION

The numerical simulation method established in this report is

used to complete the analysis. The bearing capacity of different

foundations in a single soil layer is analyzed comparatively

under a single force. The parameters of soil are shown in Table

load and the displacement of the foundations is linear when the

load is small, and changes between the pile groups are similar.

With an increase in load, the displacement of the pile group

increases rapidly, and an inflection point appears. The inflection

point of VPG-type appears earlier and the corresponding

ultimate vertical bearing capacity, Vu, is relatively small. The

inflection point of SPG-type appears at the last and Vu is

relatively great. With VPG-type as a benchmark, Vu of

BPG-type, SPG-type and CPG-type increases by 33.7%, 54.7%,

11.9%, respectively. In conclusion, SPG-type has a stronger

vertical bearing capacity and VPG-type has a weaker capacity.

The combination of a large-diameter pile and several inclined

piles strengthen the vertical bearing capacity of foundations.

As indicated in Figure 11(b), under the vertical loading,

PEEQ develops along the pile body and a complete plastic

region appears near the end of the pile body. The development

of the tangent of pile body is more severe, whereas that of

normal direction is slower. When the vertical piles and inclined

538

Liu et al.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

piles co-exist, the region of PEEQ near the inclined piles is

larger, whereas that of vertical piles is smaller.

Comparison of Horizontal Bearing Capacity

Under a horizontal load, the load-displacement curves of

different foundations and the plastic region of soil (PEEQ) are

presented in Figure 12. In this figure, h indicates a horizontal

displacement.

load and the displacement of the foundations is linear when the

load is small, and changes between the pile groups are similar.

With an increase in load, the displacement of the pile group

increases rapidly, and an inflection point appears. The inflection

point of VPG-type appears earlier and the corresponding

ultimate flexural bearing capacity, Mu, is relatively small. The

inflection point of BPG-type appears at the last and Mu is

relatively great. With VPG-type as a benchmark, Mu of BPGtype, SPG-type and CPG-type increases by 38.3%, 33.8%,

23.4%, respectively. In conclusion, BPG-type has a stronger

flexural bearing capacity. In conclusion, the inclined piles

strengthen the flexural bearing capacity of pile group

foundation.

(a)

(a)

(b)

Figure 12. Results of pile group foundations: (a) Load-settlement curves

of foundations; (b) Distributions of PEEQ.

load and the displacement of the foundations is linear when the

load is small, and changes between the pile groups are similar.

With an increase in load, the displacement of the pile group

increases rapidly, and an inflection point appears. The inflection

point of VPG-type appears earlier and the corresponding

ultimate horizontal bearing capacity, Hu, is relatively small. The

inflection point of SPG-type appears at the last and Hu is

relatively great. With VPG-type as a benchmark, Hu of

BPG-type, SPG-type and CPG-type increases by 27.9%, 44.0%,

30.3%, respectively. In conclusion, SPG-type has the stronger

horizontal bearing capacity. The inclined piles strengthen the

horizontal bearing capacity of pile group foundation.

As indicated in Figure 12(b), under horizontal loading, PEEQ

develops along the pile body and concentrates on the front of

the compressed piles and the area around the end of pile tip. The

development of the tangent of pile body is more severe, whereas

that of normal direction is slower.

Comparison of Bending Bearing Capacity

Under a bending moment, the load-displacement curves of

different foundations and the plastic region of soil (PEEQ) are

presented in Figure 13. In this figure, indicates an angle

displacement.

(b)

Figure 13. Results of pile group foundations: (a) Load-settlement curves

of foundations; (b) Distributions of PEEQ.

a bending moment loading, PEEQ develops along the pile body

and concentrates on the front of the compressed piles and the

area around the end of pile tip. The development of the tangent

of pile body is more severe, whereas that of normal direction is

slower.

EXAMPLE PROJECT

General Engineering Information

An offshore wind power farm is proposed to be constructed.

According to a geological survey of the seabed, the geotechnical

spatial distribution is complex. From top to bottom, the seabed

can be divided into 11 layers within the surveying depth.

Several of these layers are soft soil or hard soil. The specific

soil parameters are provided in Table 2.

The load cases for 3-MW wind turbines are shown in Table 4.

539

Stratum

Soil

Description

Thickness

h (m)

Wet Weight

(kN/m3)

Sludge

Clay

Silty Sand

Silty Clay

Silty Sand

Silty Clay

Silt

Silt

Silt

Silty Clay

Silty Sand

8.5

2.3

5.2

2.8

6.7

6.2

1.6

10.4

4.3

2

10

17.0

18.5

20

19.5

20

20.3

20.5

19.3

19.3

20.0

20

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

Compression

Modulus Es0.1-0.2

(MPa)

2.49

3.22

15

5.18

18

6.03

6.76

7.90

7.90

5.25

21

Cohesion c(kPa)

11.4

25.0

0

24.3

0

33.8

30.7

17.0

17.0

23.1

0

11.3

10.4

33

14.1

37

10.5

18.8

25.8

25.8

16.3

38

Load Case

A

B

FV (kN)

FH (kN)

4147.0

5153.1

4688.2

5598.5

M (kNm)

91524.26

126249.76

T (kNm)

3280.3

4428.4

Foundation

Foundation A

Foundation B

Foundation C

Foundation D

L/L (m)

D of cap (m)

D of piles (m)

Rake ratio

45.0/62.5

42.5/50.0

45.0/62.5

45.0/62.5

14

14

20.4

14

10.4

10.4

16.24

10.4

8

6

8

8

1.5

1.8

2.0

1.8

1:6

1:6

/

1:6

foundation. Load Case B is used to verify the anti-overturning

stability and the anti-sliding stability of the foundation.

Design and Analysis

In the design of the foundation structure, different load effect

combinations were selected to calculate different design content.

Foundation A, B, C, D, which had one-to-one relationship with

BPG-type, SPG-type, VPG-type and CPG-type, were designed.

Foundation B consists of one central pile and six side piles. The

diameter of the central pile is 3 m, and its total length and

buried depth are 67.5 m and 50 m, respectively. The remaining

parameters are shown in Table 4.

To verify the feasibility and safety of this foundation, the

proposed numerical simulation method was selected. The

horizontal displacement of the foundation and the vertical

displacement of the cap are presented in Figure 14.

As is shown in Figure 14, the maximum horizontal

displacements of Foundation A, B, C and D are 5.04, 5.56, 5.93

and 5.90cm, respectively. The calculated differential settlement

ratio are 2.2, 2.2, 2.2 and 2.6. The maximum vertical

displacements of Foundation A, B, C and D are 2.60, 2.49, 2.75

and 2.41 cm, respectively. The horizontal displacement of

foundation which includes inclined piles is smaller. The vertical

displacement of foundation which includes vertical piles and

(a)

(b)

Figure 14. Results of pile group foundations: (a) Horizontal displacement

of different foundations; (b) Vertical displacement of caps.

540

Liu et al.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Table 5. Results of different pile group foundations.

Foundation A

Maximum compression stress(kN)

Maximum tension stress(kN)

Safety factor of anti-overturning

Safety factor of anti-sliding

Differential settlement ratio()

Calculated value

Designed value

Calculated value

Designed value

Calculated value

Designed value

Calculated value

Designed value

Calculated value

Designed value

9415.0

9980.0

2537.4

5090.8

4.66

1.3

4

1.6

2.2

3

simulation results.

The comparison between simulation and the results of the

Code for Pile Foundation in Harbor Engineering of the

maximum tension stress, maximum compression stress, safety

factor of anti-overturning, safety factor of anti-sliding and

differential settlement ratio are shown in Table 5.

All of the results obtained meet the specified requirements.

The displacements and piles stress of Foundation A and B with

inclined piles, which have the strong horizontal bearing capacity

and the flexural bearing capacity, are relatively small. However,

the results of Foundation C and D without inclined piles are

larger. Furthermore, the parameters of caps, L and D are

relatively large. Thus the conclusions are in accordance with the

proposed theoretical analysis' conclusion and numerical

simulation results.

To sum up, it can be seen that: BPG-type and SPG-type are

suitable for an offshore wind farm.

CONCLSIONS

Based on the characteristics of offshore wind loads,

SPG-type - which consists of a large-diameter pile and several

small diameter and buried length inclined piles, BPG-type

which consists of several inclined piles, and VPG-type which

contains several vertical piles and CPG including several

inclined piles and vertical piles, have been developed. A

numerical simulation method is established and verified based

on laboratory experiments. The vertical bearing capacity, the

horizontal bearing capacity and the flexural bearing capacity are

studied. The following conclusions can be drawn as follows:

(1)The bearing capacity of BPG is studied through model

tests. A numerical simulation method is established and then

selected to simulate the model tests. The results are verified by

laboratory experiments.

(2) By the rule of the steel amount which is kept the same, the

BPG-type, SPG-type, VPG-type and CPG-type are studied

through the numerical simulation method. The vertical,

horizontal and flexural bearing capacity of BPG-type and

SPG-type are strong, whereas that of VPG-type and CPG-type

are weak. The inclined piles in foundations can strengthen the

bearing capacity.

(3) In view of a practical project, four different types

foundations are designed. The bearing capacity, deformation

Foundation B

9604.9

10757.1

4127.3

5493.3

4.27

1.3

3.96

1.6

2.2

3

Foundation C

11932.1

14003.5

No tension

6.79

1.3

6.5

1.6

2.2

3

Foundation D

11753.8

12352.5

4542.7

6181

3.49

1.3

3.96

1.6

2.6

3

investigated. BPG-type and SPG-type are suitable for

offshore wind farm. The VPG-type needs to increase

parameters of the foundation to meet the requirements of

wind turbines.

are

an

the

the

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This study was supported by the Innovative Research

Groups of the National Natural Science Foundation of China

(51021004) and the National Key Basic Research Program of

China(973) (2014CB046800).

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