Sensitivity of the seismic response of monopile-supported offshore wind turbines to soil variability

S. Panagoulias*, C. de Winter, S. T. Navalkar, A. Nernheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
101 Downloads (Pure)


The expansion of the offshore wind industry in areas with high seismicity has led to engineering challenges related to the design of the offshore wind turbines (OWTs). Monopiles, i.e., tubular steel piles of large outer diameter, low aspect ratio (penetration depth over outer diameter), and relatively thin pile wall, are traditionally the preferred foundation type for OWT due to fabrication, transportation, and installation standardization. For all bottom-founded systems, soil–structure interaction (SSI) plays a crucial role in the system's response. Additional challenges arise in the case of seismic SSI as, not only the system's response, but also the seismic ground motion itself are affected by the soil characteristics. Furthermore, uncertainties related to soil properties, as derived from the soil testing campaign and interpretation, need to be thoroughly considered for OWT load calculations and the design of the support structure. The uncertainty in soil interpretation may have a large impact on the characteristics of the input seismic motion. Subsequently, SSI will affect the seismic loads acting on the support structure and the OWT. This knock-on effect of the interpretation of the soil parameters is unknown, but may be significant to account for. In fact, when a “best estimate” soil parameter set is used, the resulting seismic load may not necessarily correspond to the most probable load for the assumed seismic event. This paper investigates the influence of the uncertainty in soil parameters, as they may result from the soil interpretation, on the seismic loads. It demonstrates the skewed distribution of OWT seismic loads using a realistic design case study on a commercial OWT. Results are presented in the form of transfer functions, response spectra at mudline and normalized bending moments along the support structure. Three distinct structural components of interest are selected to evaluate the results. It is concluded that, for the analysis of OWT under seismic loading conditions in particular, it cannot be decided a priori which soil properties would result in conservative or progressive design. Based on the obtained results, recommendations are given which aim to de-risk and enhance the current design practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113545
Number of pages12
JournalOcean Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Earthquake loading
  • Monopile foundation
  • Numerical analysis
  • Offshore wind turbine
  • Probabilistic analysis
  • Seismic design
  • Soil–structure interaction


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