Harnessing the power of wind and waves to create steady foundations

My passion for Plymouth's coast

I had intended to study civil engineering, but unfortunately did not get the A levels required for my initial choices.

During Clearing, I saw BEng (Hons) Civil and Coastal Engineering advertised at Plymouth and was drawn in by the coastal aspect of the course.

Throughout my three-year degree I continued to find the coastal aspects the most interesting, which made me wanted to specialise further – Plymouth's MSc Coastal Engineering programme was the perfect way to do so. 

I enjoyed my time here as an undergraduate and as one of the top universities for coastal research it was a no brainer for me to stay here for my masters.

Using the COAST laboratory has really provided meaning to the work undertaken in lectures. While the opportunity to undertake new research in this facility has been very interesting, enjoyable and integral to my final year project.

<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>

Using wind and waves to errode scouring

For my end of year project, I am investigating the extent of scour development around a monopile mounted oscillating water column (OWC).

Scour is the removal of sediment, such as silt and sand, which can result in the formation of scour holes and may compromise the integrity of a structure.

Monopiles are foundation structures typically used to support offshore wind turbines, and OWCs are a type of wave energy converter, so by combining the two both wind and wave energy can be harnessed at the same location offshore. This provides many financial and logistical benefits associated with construction and maintenance. 

There is no existing research into the effect which installing such a structure can have on erosion at the seabed around the base of the monopile, so I am performing tests to compare the scour around a monopile with the scour around a monopile fitted with an OWC.

<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>

Replicating the seabed in the lab

For my research I am performing a physical modelling exercise using the ocean basin – a unique facility that allows waves and currents to be generated at any relative orientation and can be run at different water depths – in the University’s COAST laboratory.

I have constructed a large sand pit to replicate the seabed, as well as a scaled model monopile and OWC, which are installed in the centre.

The models are subjected to hydrodynamic forces exerted by current and waves, causing scour. 

This scour is measured using various instrumentation to assess its development over time and its maximum extent.

<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>
<p>Rhys Southgate, MSc Coastal Engineering student conducting research<br></p>

Rolling with the research waves

A greater understanding of the effect such structures have on scour may mean renewable developers are more likely to employ such technology alongside offshore wind turbines. 

My research has the potential to improve the design of monopile mounted OWCs, which would mean more renewable energy generated for less money than separate developments.

I recommend to make the most of every opportunity available at University, so you get to experience a range of new things to study which may influence your research, as well as your free time.

It's great to be able to take my passion out of the lab into the field so easily. There are many great rivers nearby that offer some awesome white water and plenty of flatter water too, all surrounded by great scenery. I have put this to good use by coaching the University’s canoe and kayak club for the past three years. 

After I graduate, I hope to build on my current research and work in the renewable energy industry on the development of new wave energy technologies.

 

Do you want to be involved in the defence, protection and management of the world’s coastlines?

Aimed at engineers and physical scientists, our MSc Coastal Engineering combines the theory of waves and tides with coastal modelling, port engineering and management. 

Supported by a team of experienced staff in one of the largest coastal engineering research groups in the UK, you’ll gain expertise to help progress your future career.

Study MSc Coastal Engineering