The 'suction bucket' foundations are loaded on to a carrier. Photograph: Alan O'Neill/Forewind Ltd/CHPV
A gigantic steel bucket will be lowered upside-down through the deep, murky waters of the North Sea within the next few days, and, through a smart engineering trick, it will sink rapidly into the sandy sediment on the sea floor. Once nestled into place, it will become stuck fast and form a rock-solid foundation for a structure towering far above the waves.
If all goes well, the technology may also provide a secure basis for the thousands of giant offshore wind turbines planned for UK waters: the most ambitious offshore wind rollout in the world, potentially providing electricity for 26m homes by 2030. The foundation could help calm the war being waged over the building of turbines in the countryside by significantly cutting the extra cost of placing them out to sea and out of sight.
"The 'suction bucket' foundation is a really great innovation for the industry as you can install it faster and at lower costs than conventional foundations," said Phil de Villiers, of the Carbon Trust, which has supported its development. "That is good for everyone as it brings down costs."