Altitec, a specialist in blade inspection and repair with a dedicated training arm known as the Altitec Academy, has called for more attention to the skills gap for blade repair and inspection in UK offshore wind industry.
A lack of qualified blade repair technicians and an absence of recognised training standards is threatening to undermine both the efficiency of long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) programmes in the UK offshore wind market and the standing of UK service providers in the wider European and global sectors, according to the company.
“Via our Altitec Academy training courses, we’re currently able to train up to 150 blade inspectors and repair technicians each year,” said Tom Dyffort, Managing Director, Altitec Group. “However it’s unrealistic to think that we’re anywhere near plugging the skills gap for blade repair and inspection in UK offshore wind – particularly since specialist, on-site training can take up to 25 weeks to complete.”
“It’s important that the issue receives greater attention and high-level support when it comes to developing recognised standards and creating industry-wide best practice,” Dyffort emphasised.
UK providers of the essential maintenance services required to keep project downtime to a minimum – including blade inspection and repair – urgently need to increase the scope of training programmes and the rate at which new technicians are trained in order to cater for this demand, Altitec said.
This emerging skills gap is exacerbated by a current lack of widely recognised higher-level training standards for blade technicians. While the RenewableUK BRAI (blade repair and inspection) standard was introduced in 2014 and currently forms the basis for early-stage training courses, no internationally-recognised standard is currently available for the more advanced training qualifications required to prepare technicians for the demands of servicing blades at height offshore.
Altitec noted that it is currently working on a retained contract providing blade inspection and repair services at E.ON’s Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm, off the east coast of the UK, deploying the latest rope access technology and blade inspection techniques to minimise inspection times on the project. The specialist training its technicians have received, as well as the use of advanced rope access technology such as the ActSafe Ascender, has so far cut blade maintenance times by around a third, according to the company.