The departure of the floating hotel Regina Baltica, which was the final construction vessel on the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm, marks the end of an intense period of activity and the start a new operational phase, which has been in the planning for the past five years.
Now the only vessels to be seen will be the three permanent personnel transfer vessels – Eden Rose, Dulcinea and Dorothea – working out of Wells-next-the-Sea, and the occasional larger maintenance vessel as required.
At its peak, more than 600 workers were piling the foundations, installing the turbines, laying the cables and contributing to all aspects of a wind farm’s construction. Now a tightly-knit team of 60 staff will operate and maintain the wind farm as a long-term generator of renewable energy from its new headquarters just three miles south of Wells-next-the-Sea.
Like any power station, the wind farm will require on-going management, which the operator, Scira Offshore Energy will oversee. While to ensure efficient operation of the turbines and offshore substations, the 40-strong Siemens unit will undertake daily maintenance services for at least the next five years, when the service contract will be re-assessed.
Scira’s General Manager, Einar Strømsvåg said in the lifecycle of a wind farm, Sheringham Shoal is now entering its longest phase – operation.
“Construction is complete and we can now proceed with the business of running a wind farm,” he said. “This is a business guaranteed to be here for 25 years until the turbines require reconditioning, and then another 25 years after that.
“So for at least 50 years, we will be providing career opportunities, utilising local services and – as one of North Norfolk’s largest employers playing a key role in enabling the local community to take advantages of the opportunities the growing offshore renewables industry will bring to the area.”
Former cruise ferry, the 145m Regina Baltica arrived on site in April 2012 as a temporary home for wind farm workers installing and commissioning the project’s wind turbines and electrical infrastructure. Those on board were met with facilities that included single-berth cabins, cafeteria, restaurants, conference and meeting rooms, lounge areas and a sun deck.
Once all the wind turbines were erected, rock placement for scour protection complete and export cables buried, only a few turbines remained to be commissioned. Workers finalising the last tasks on these turbines, which included fixing snag items and managing the 500-hour service required, were the last offshore contractors to remain.
Now their work is done, the workers have left for their next projects and so too has the floating hotel that accommodated them.
Press release, December 18, 2012; Image: Scira