New Study Puts Offshore Wind Rough Riders Into Focus

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is coordinating a study on the psychological and physiological well-being of crew being transited to offshore wind farms in choppy waters.

Unscheduled operations and maintenance activities on offshore wind installations account for almost a quarter of the lifetime cost of an offshore farm, but a proportion of that is time wasted in failed crew transits or workers unable to carry out their duties as a direct result of rough weather conditions, ORE Catapult said.

The DemoWind2-funded Improving the Safety and Productivity of Offshore Wind Technician in Transit (SPOWTT) project is expected to reveal how the motion of a vessel in transit during certain weather conditions affects workers’ well-being. The study will result in the creation of a tool that will help marine coordinators determine whether or not to proceed with deploying personnel in turbulent conditions.

“The safety and well-being of our technicians are of paramount importance to us, and so it’s vital that we minimise the impact of adverse weather crew transits on them as much as possible,” Pete Lloyd of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy said.

“This kind of innovative approach to problem solving is key to the UK Government’s Industrial and Clean Growth Strategies and will be an important tenet of the offshore wind Sector Deal currently being developed by the offshore wind industry.”

The EUR 3.6 million SPOWTT project will provide a forecasting tool, a monitoring tool and help match future assets to environmental conditions, ORE Catapult said.

Gijs Struijk, Head of Maritime Operations at MARIN, said: “Unique to this project is the way that operational data is used to supplement our models of vessel behaviour. Together with the University of Hull’s research on physiological and psychological factors, this project is able to achieve comprehensive and accurate modelling of the impact of every voyage.”

The collaboration involves seven partners from across Europe, including Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, the University of Hull, SMC Ltd, providing marine coordination services, Dutch research institutes MARIN and ECN, and BMO Offshore, a data service provider to the offshore wind industry.

Chris Hill, Operational Performance Director for ORE Catapult, added: “This project is ground-breaking in that, for the first time, we are combining extensive research from both the vessels used to transport technicians and the psychological and physiological impacts on the technicians themselves. The resultant digital decision-making tool could transform our approach to technician-led operations and maintenance activities.”

The partners estimate that if, by 2020, this solution is applied across the currently installed fleet of 1,300 Siemens 3.6MW wind turbine generators, revenue could increase by EUR 11 million per annum.

Dr Fiona Earle, part of the team carrying out the research at the University of Hull, said: “This project looks at the effect of transit in adverse weather conditions on technician state and their ability to engage safely with work, and this is really not well understood at present. We are undertaking fundamental research into how these effects manifest themselves within the technicians, and impact upon the technicians’ health and well-being.”

Photo: Illustration. Source: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

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