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Courtesy of Fistuca BVThe future of offshore piling: bigger, deeper, quieter

By Judy Penz Sheluk

In Europe, offshore wind turbines have become an accepted technology for producing energy. Although offshore wind is not yet used in Canada and the U.S., America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound, Mass., is planned for 2014. 

Offshore wind turbines are typically mounted on monopile foundations, large steel tubes with a diameter of four to seven metres and around 50 metres long, which are then hammered into the soil with large hydraulic hammers. While effective, this installation technology has some significant drawbacks. Because the turbines tend to get bigger and are installed in ever-deeper water, the monopiles need to get bigger, which in turn demands the ram and anvil to be bigger and heavier. Global production capacity for exceptionally large parts such as these is limited and the prices are high.

The use of conventional hydraulic hammers, which create a high peak force within a short time span, also poses significant ecological concerns with regards to marine life. As a result, their use has been restricted in many countries, although the type of legislation varies per country. In Germany, for example, there is a strict norm that must be met, while in The Netherlands, there are seasonal restrictions, permitting pile driving only half of the year. In general, the current trend in Europe is legislation getting stricter.

Worldwide, most countries have general legislation on the protection of wildlife. In Canada, there is the Species at Risk Act, where the mitigation measures to be applied are defined per project in the permit by the legislator, usually after an ecological impact study.

Triggered by the problems encountered with conventional offshore pile driving technology, Jasper Winkes, M.Sc., and his business partner, Bart Genuit, M.Sc., were determined to invent a better way. The two men form the management team of Fistuca BV, a young company based in The Netherlands. The company was founded in 2008 by Winkes as a spin-off from the faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and is developing innovative solutions for the foundation industry. Genuit, a graduate from TU/e in 2011, has been with the company since its inception.

Both men bring their own unique perspective and expertise to the business. Winkes’ specialties include combustion, mechanical design, creative thinking and managing technical innovations; Genuit’s focus includes dynamic modeling, control design, software engineering and data analysis.

Understanding BLUE Piling Technology
In 2011, under the direction of Winkes and Genuit, Fistuca BV invented BLUE Piling Technology (patented), a revolutionary new technology aimed at reducing both the costs and emitted noise of piling offshore foundations.

“Hydraulic hammers make use of a steel ram, which is dropped onto an anvil resting on the pile, creating a force impulse that drives the pile,” said Winkes. “To reduce the underwater noise, complicated measures need to be taken to lower it to acceptable levels for sea life, significantly increasing the costs of installation. That cost is naturally passed on to the end user, making it an expensive process.”

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About Us

Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.