Electron-beam-welding used to build wind turbine in UK for first time

In what has been described as a "world's first," electron-beam-welding has partially been used to assemble an offshore wind turbine.
Christopher McFadden
The technique could prove revolutionary for the industry.


A UK joint venture has announced a revolutionary offshore wind turbine fabrication method using electron-beam-welding. In what has been termed a "world first," the new welding technique could make the assembly of such wind turbines significantly quicker, cheaper, cleaner, and more energy efficient. They also exhibit high-quality welds with excellent fatigue properties.

“This is a ‘first-in-class’ project, establishing this UK innovation as a world-leading technology. With monopile-type foundations accounting for over 90% of foundations used in UK projects, Ebflow RPEB could realize significant cost savings on future projects," said Olly Cass, SSE Renewables Project Director for Dogger Bank Wind Farm.

“These substantial savings will not only benefit the UK offshore engineering industry but could be passed on to UK energy consumers," he added. The method has been integrated into a monopole foundation for a turbine, which is scheduled for installation in the second phase of the Dogger Bank Wind Farm. This farm is over 81 miles (130 km) from the Northeast coast of England.

Currently, monopiles are assembled through traditional techniques like submerged arc welding (SAW). However, a consortium of Cambridge Vacuum Engineering (CVE), SSE Renewables, Sif Group, and TWI has shown that electron beam (EB) welding is far superior in many ways. Not to mention much safer.

This type of electron beam welding technology, known as EbflowTM, is a recent development in the industry. Unlike traditional methods that require welding in a vacuum chamber, Ebflow uses a more cost-effective and space-efficient way of maintaining a vacuum only around the welded seam.

This innovation has expanded the possibilities for using EB welding on larger structures, like monopiles while reducing costs and increasing productivity. CVE, the company behind this technology, has demonstrated its ability to weld monopiles 25 times faster than current methods, using 90% less energy, costing 88% less, and producing 97% fewer CO2 emissions than SAW methods.

“We’re proud to be pioneering this innovative technique on Dogger Bank Wind Farm by demonstrating its capabilities on a critical offshore component. This would not have been possible without the great collaborative work with Cambridge Vacuum Engineering (CVE), Sif Group, and TWI. We’re excited about what could be achieved by scaling up this method to pick up the pace as we work towards net zero targets.”

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