Innovative technologies aimed at improving the experience of personnel travelling to and from offshore wind farms were recently unveiled by BMT Nigel Gee and OSBIT Power.
As well as introducing an active motion damping system to a number of its vessel designs claimed capable of reducing motions by more than 50% compared to a conventional platform, BMT has developed a solution to significantly reduce internal ambient noise levels and eliminate structure-borne vibration. This is achieved by incorporating an innovative, resiliently mounted superstructure which does not compromise the design or performance of the vessel and is fully isolated from the hull, says the company.
Several of these technologies are currently being incorporated into the new 19m vessel under construction for Turbine Transfers, the design of which complies with the new DNV Wind Farm Service 1 class notation introduced earlier this year. Through its partnership with Turbine Transfers, BMT is also developing a new active fender system (AFS) for use on wind farm support vessels. The design requires no hydraulics or electrical power and ensures that, in the event of a heavy docking with the turbine foundation, the loads imparted on both the vessel and the turbine structure are minimised, says BMT.
Ed Dudson, technical director at BMT Nigel Gee, commented: ‘Technicians who need to carry out vital maintenance on offshore wind turbines have to contend with extended transit times to and from the shore, therefore high levels of comfort and safety is paramount.'
According to OSBIT, the MX system is designed to be cost-effective, compact and easy to mount onto existing wind turbine support vessels. No alteration is required to the standard wind turbine access platform. ‘MaXccess provides a secure and measured attachment between the vessel and the turbine. It can also sustain much higher vertical loads without the bow moving, when compared to "bump and jump" technology currently used, allowing for safe operation in higher sea states,' explains Dr Tony Trapp, CEO. ‘In emergency situations, the vessel skipper can reverse thrust and immediately detach from the turbine, if required.' Full scale trials were completed in a large wave tank last December. OE
Learning from the oil industry The rapidly developing offshore wind industry off the UK's east coast must gather knowledge from the oil & gas sector's 45 years' experience of working in harsh offshore environments. That is the main conclusion from a major study by Natural Power on behalf of the POWER (Pushing Offshore Wind Energy Regions) cluster, a three-year project which aims to help develop the offshore wind industry in Europe's North Sea region. Recommendations include that the industry could take a collaborative approach to developing offshore technology. This would drive down costs by identifying best practice, build economies of scale and reduce exposure to risks and cost overruns. Exposure to risks and cost overruns deters potential investors to the projects. There is a belief that the offshore wind industry cannot afford oil and gas prices – although this is often a false economy, said the study. The prices charged by the oil and gas industry reflect the cost of working in the North Sea all year round. Several offshore wind farms have suffered major delays due to the use of ‘cheap' solutions and have had to change to more appropriate vessels and procedures during the installation of a wind farm. v John Best, chief executive of one of the POWER cluster partner organizations, the East of England Energy Group, said the study results ‘reaffirm our key message. We must work together to reap the benefits of the huge opportunities that lay ahead. The oil & gas industry is firmly established and has the same skills and core competencies required in the offshore wind sector. It is a new and emerging market and it makes sense to learn from those who have been working in these environments for over 45 years.'