Safety & Training
Europe leads the offshore wind power charge
Sept. 29, 2011, Duxford, U.K. - The Helitech Conference kicked off with a popular and highly informative session on offshore wind farms.
By Carey Fredericks
“Offshore wind farm projects are getting larger and being located in ever deeper water,” said Anne-Bénédicte Genachte from The European Wind Energy Association. “Both helicopters and maritime vessels have a role to play and we don’t think there is one solution to fit every project.” Genachte detailed the huge potential in the growth of offshore wind farm capacity over the next 10 to 20 years.
“Some people are quite sceptical about helicopters being involved in wind farm support,” said Scott Butler, from Bristow Helicopters. “We believe that wind farms such as Dogger Bank in the North Sea, which will have around 1,600 turbines when it is constructed, will keep both helicopters and marine vessels very busy indeed.” Both Butler and Siemens Wind Power’s Peter Lloyd estimate that energy operators will need to plan for approximately 10 visits to every offshore wind turbine per annum, to perform a variety of roles including scheduled servicing and reactive maintenance. Lloyd said that Siemens had carried out analysis of the potential accessibility levels of helicopters versus ships in their ability to carry out crew transfers to wind farms in a range of different weather conditions. The helicopter came out top with the potential for more than 90 percent accessibility because they are able to operate in more types of weather conditions than ships can. Ship’s access potential came in at only 53 percent. “Helicopters’ speed of response will be a key factor,” added Lloyd.
Fresh from a training exercise at the Gunfleet Sands wind farm, Flight Lieutenant Lee Turner and Master Aircrew Chris Bodiam from the RAF’s UK SAR Force gave delegates an insight into their experience of wind farm rescue techniques. With many of the wind turbines measuring between 300 and 500ft tall, the scope for injuries sustained from working at a considerable height is ever present. Great skill is needed by the helicopter pilot to be able to hover safely near enough to a turbine to effect a rescue. Bodiam said that factors such as the lack of working room on top of a turbine can also make casualty handling a highly skilled procedure, particularly if a stretcher is needed.
Helitech Exhibition Manager, Brandon Ward, said: “The conference gave the rotary wing industry an excellent insight into what the future holds for those interested in supplying the offshore wind market.”