Scottish energy company SSE has engaged practiced emergency responses and has adapted working arrangements to ensure the safety of the staff working on the Beatrice offshore wind farm during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 584 MW Beatrice comprises 84 Siemens Gamesa 7 MW wind turbines which have been in operation for almost a year.
The wind farm’s operations and maintenance (O&M) base in Wick normally has around 50 people working out of it, Martin Sutherland, Beatrice Operations Manager, said.
The base is currently running with only essential control room employees, two members of staff at a time. The site is also a meeting place for technicians before they head offshore, but the teams are observing guidelines and maintaining an acceptable distance from one another, Sutherland said.
The remaining employees are working from home but remain on call if required to head to the site.
Those working in the control room have their own dedicated access and egress areas and separate welfare facilities. Strict hygiene controls are also in place for shared areas such as the control room desk, according to Sutherland.
The coming servicing window of spring and summer would usually see up to four crew transfer vessels (CTVs) leaving each day to go to the site to carry out maintenance at the turbines, with crews of up to twelve on each vessel.
However, at the moment, the team is focussing on work essential to keeping the turbines spinning so only one CTV is leaving daily, Sutherland said.
The usual crews of twelve have been reduced to crews of six to allow a safe distance between individuals.
Similar to scenes outside some supermarkets, the technicians are waiting to transfer onto the turbines by forming a queue with spaces of at least two metres between them.
SSE has also introduced health screening measures for the crews heading offshore, and PPE is available on the boat if needed. On days when the weather turns out to be too bad to sail, the teams are stood down and head straight back home, Sutherland said.