University of Sheffield to lead on UK wind power technology for the future

The University of Sheffield will lead a £7.6m research project to improve the country’s offshore wind power technologies, it was announced today (Thursday 13 July 2017).

wind turbine

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, revealed the news as part of a £138m investment announcement into research partnerships to strengthen links between the UK’s research base, industry and business partners.

The offshore wind project will see the University of Sheffield and collaborating universities Durham and Hull, partnering with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and DONG Energy, the world’s largest offshore wind (OSW) developer, on a five-year programme to address problems that will help to reduce the cost of electricity from offshore wind.

It also aims to lay the foundation for the next generation of wind turbines and farms at a significantly higher level of power generation, helping to meet clean energy challenges.

The partnership of leading OSW companies and research institutions will strengthen the UK’s position as a global leader in OSW research and accelerate the engagement of UK skills and manufacturing in the OSW supply-chain.

By partnering with industry, Sheffield will create the largest joint industry-academic wind power research partnership in the UK, further strengthening its world-leading position in the research of high efficiency and reliable wind power generators and structural health monitoring.

Professor Zi-Qiang Zhu, from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, who is the lead academic on the programme said: “The project will address the challenges of both the current and future generations of wind turbine (WT) technology in such a way that a chain of critical issues regarding availability and reliability of such structures will be explored and solved.

“The funding will enable fundamental engineering research to be carried out to give the UK the opportunity to establish global leadership in research and in the skills supply-chain, through this unique industry and academic partnership. Being both industry-led and academically-driven, the research will be both genuinely innovative and focussed on delivering business value.”

In December Siemens opened a new £310m offshore wind (OSW) turbine blade factory in Hull, which marked a milestone for the industry and coincided with increased investment in operations and maintenance activities to service the increasing capacity of OSW farms.

Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “The UK is positioned to take a leading industrial role in the growing global demand for offshore wind power technologies. The UK’s installed capacity is more than the rest of the world combined and forecast to grow rapidly. However, we need to substantially reduce the electricity costs if we are to achieve the target growth required.

“Two principal technology challenges for OSW cost-reduction are increases in turbine size, and smarter operations and maintenance. These align strongly with the strategic research strengths of the University of Sheffield.”

The project has received £3.8m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and £2.5m from Siemens and DONG, with the rest being made up by the three universities.

The project is part of Prosperity Partnerships announced today by Jo Johnson, which will receive in total £31 million of government funding from EPSRC and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) - matched by a further £36 million from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, plus £11 million from universities’ funds, totalling £78 million in all.

The University of Sheffield is one of ten universities to lead on 11 projects.

Additional Information

Siemens and the University of Sheffield

In 2009 Siemens established the S2WP (Sheffield Siemens Wind Power) partnership with the University of Sheffield and has six Siemens engineers at the University. Over the last seven years they have co-created and co-delivered 11 projects, and helped the successful commercialisation of Siemens’ 7 and 8MW direct drive wind power generators. 

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The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:
Kirsty Bowen
0114 222 1034