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RISK MANAGEMENT


REMOTER FARMS CLOSER COLLABORATION


Europe's wind energy potential is mind-blowing. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), it is enough to power the continent seven times over. As the industry matures, a growing trend is for a greater number of larger turbines to be installed further offshore, such as the 2.4GW wind farm at Dogger Bank. Sited 125km off the Yorkshire coast in the North Sea, this project has recently received government consent. If remoter offshore wind farms such as this one are to be successful, we need closer collaboration industry-wide.


1 ASSET AND RISK MANAGEMENT SHOULD BE FURTHER INTEGRATED Recently, there has been much groundwork laid in developing sector guidelines, with RenewableUK and members of the G9 Offshore Wind Health and Safety Association being particularly active. To a large extent, this task is a matter of aligning what already exists on paper, rather than a need to draft new technical standards. In the matter of lifting operations, for example, there is an abundance of source material from which to work.


Where new thinking is needed is in the vital area of enhancing safety, especially in considering the human factors involved in turbine operations given the challenging work environment. To date, global initiatives have been limited to responses regarding the training of turbine crews. Safety guidelines are regionalised and safety cultures vary widely between companies.


DISJOINTED APPROACH TO HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT A key barrier preventing progress is the disjointed approach to Health and Safety


management. So far, Health and Safety managers have looked at how to mitigate risk within the existing framework. This model acknowledges that personnel will need to be deployed to an offshore wind farm as has always been the case. For these experts, it is a matter of how these risky activities can be best carried out safely. Given the challenges of reaching, accessing and scaling turbines in strong winds and often high waves, it is easy to focus on the immediate issues faced.


Meanwhile and in isolation, asset managers have tended to focus on optimising performance, as is their job. But consider a change in operational strategy, with the mindset that strives to avoid the deployment of crew at all costs, as this is the safest of all scenarios. Such an improved model can only help the industry to thrive as wind turbines move further offshore.


To achieve such a goal – to agree what change is needed and then make it happen –requires an integrated approach between the two core disciplines of risk and asset management.


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2 OWNER-OPERATORS AND MANUFACTURERS NEED TO COME TOGETHER


Having reliable assets, which can be unmanned for longer, is fundamentally a matter of good design. As turbines have increased in size, the sector has made a number of technical leaps to reduce the number of unplanned downtimes and support lean operations. Today’s turbines have less rotating equipment that is prone to failure than during the sector’s early days, for instance. The risk of fire and explosion to electrical turbines has also been tackled and reduced significantly in recent times, with new turbine designs comprising less hydraulic and flammable components.


POTENTIAL TO IMPROVE There is still, however, the potential to improve designs further and this is not just from an asset performance standpoint. In the future, smart turbines will hopefully provide improved condition monitoring systems that are able to register, diagnose alarms and remotely fix the majority of problems arising during operations. Of course, there will inevitably be times when personnel must access turbines, so how can new designs better accommodate appropriate safety elements?


Solutions could range from featuring improved access systems to the work environment in a turbine’s nacelle to introducing hatches that accelerate evacuation procedures and including novel safety equipment and devices that avoid inventing rescue tactics on the spot. Given that crews nowadays can be limited to three or even two people, this is ever more pressing. The trend to move to smaller teams means manpower alone is not a good enough answer.


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