Six companies set to improve wind turbine access systems

Six companies have received funding from the Carbon Trust’s Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) programme to advance mechanisms that will safely transfer engineers and equipment onto offshore wind turbines.

According to the Carbon Trust, offshore wind farms are typically less than 25km off the shore in relatively benign sea conditions and consist of up to 100 turbines.

Maintenance is possible in boats around 90 per cent of the time when wave heights are up to about 1.5m.

The new round-three offshore wind projects will be as far as 300km off shore in rougher sea conditions and may consist of as many as 2,500 turbines.

At these sites, today’s access systems would only allow transfers for approximately 210 days a year.

The aim of the access project is to find and commercialise concepts to make transfers possible for a minimum of 300 days a year.

The overall aim of the access project is to increase turbine availability by four per cent through the development of these new technologies. This, according to the Carbon Trust, could cut turbine downtime, saving £3bn of lost generating revenue over the lifetime of round-three wind farms, and help to reduce the levelised cost of offshore wind. This improvement in availability would also save an extra 1.3mt of CO2 per year.

The global market opportunity for these wind turbine access solutions is estimated to be worth more than £2bn by 2020 and, according to Carbon Trust research, the UK market alone could account for up to 50 per cent of that.

The six companies will receive total combined financial support of £650,000, plus technical support from the eight developers in OWA.

The six concepts have received financial and technical support from OWA since summer 2011; this has allowed concept design and tank testing to be completed. The next stage of funding will help to de-risk the concepts so that they are ready to be taken up by vessel owners and operators.

Through the OWA programme, the Carbon Trust is leading an industry collaboration of eight UK wind farm developers — E.ON, DONG Energy, Mainstream Renewable Power, RWE Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE Renewables, Statkraft and Statoil — to reduce the costs of offshore wind.

Companies selected to receive further funding are as follows:

Transfer systems — to transfer personnel and equipment from vessel to turbine, potentially with motion compensation

OTSO, South Boats and Ad Hoc Marine

TAS2, BMT Nigel Gee / Houlder

Vessels — vessels for transporting personnel and equipment from permanent bases or mother ships to turbines, incorporating a transfer system

Nauti-Craft, Nauti-Craft

TranSPAR, ExtremeOcean Innovation

Umoe Mandal (Wavecraft Surface Effect Ship)

Launch and recovery systems — systems fitted to the permanent bases or mother ships for launching and recovering daughter craft from the sea

Boat Launch and Recovery System (LARS), Divex