Mathematicians in the UK and France have won €1.8m ($2.2m) funding to find ways to more efficiently transport offshore wind farms.

Experts in logistics from the Universities of Plymouth, Portsmouth and Le Havre are looking at reducing the cost of setting up and maintaining offshore wind farms as part of a European Union initiative.

Most container ports are not set up to handle turbine parts, which are much larger and more irregularly shaped than usual cargo – some rotor blades are 75 metres long, three times larger than the average 20-metre container.  

Dylan Jones, a mathematician at the University of Portsmouth, said: “Considerable savings could be made if logistics were better used to focus specifically on transporting wind farm parts.

“Every time someone loads their weekly shopping into the boot of their car they are using logistics to work out where to place each oddly shaped bag. The same principle can be applied to the problem of delivering enormous wind turbine parts all over Europe at the lowest cost.”

He added that while some sea ports, including Ramsgate in Kent and Ostend in Belgium, have “seized the opportunity and now use part of their port to deal with the wind farm parts, but to quantify the gains of logistic efficiency is difficult at the moment – that is part of what this project hopes to work out”.

The researchers will examine ways of co-ordinating port maintenance, driving down logistical costs and providing suitable transportation to and from the wind farms.