£3m study on the offshore wind industry's impact on the physical and mental health of crews

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 25 Apr 2018

THE psychological and physiological well-being of crew being transited to offshore wind farms in choppy waters will be studied as part of a £3 million project to improve safety.

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.

It has become a huge industry for Grimsby, with six farms currently served out of the town, and three more in the pipeline.

The DemoWind2-funded Improving the Safety and Productivity of Offshore Wind Technician in Transit (SPOWTT) project, coordinated by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, will reveal how the motion of a vessel in transit during certain weather conditions affects workers’ wellbeing.

MORE: Spot hire vessel demonstration success in Humber offshore wind market

The result will be a tool that will help marine coordinators determine whether or not to proceed with deploying personnel in turbulent conditions.

Pete Lloyd, of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, a company that as original equipment manufacturer plays a key role in service for at least the first five years, said: “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.

“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.”

MORE: Launch of Offshore Renewable Energy O&M Centre of Excellence initiative

SPOWTT will provide a forecasting tool, a monitoring tool and help match future assets to environmental conditions.

Gijs Struijk, of Dutch research institute 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.”

“Marin is proud to be able to contribute to a safer working environment for offshore wind technicians. This decision-making tool will make the best use of state-of-the-art modelling and available data to help operators create a safer working environment.”

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

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 £9.6 million per annum.

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.”

It was announced hours before Offshore Wind Connections 2018 opened in Hull, bringing the industry together for a major event organised by Team Humber Marine Alliance. 

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.”

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