Empowering the Global Industry

Researchers join project that could save offshore wind farms £1 billion

Robert Gordon University is collaborating closely with Scottish company Span Access Solutions Ltd and its partners on an innovative project that could save £1.05 billion across the current European fleet of offshore wind farms.

The £830k Innovate UK-backed project – titled ‘Blade Access System and Working Environment (BASE)’ – aims to develop a tower-mounted blade access habitat, to provide a stable working environment for technicians during blade maintenance.

Not only will this system reduce maintenance costs and minimise turbine downtime, but it will also increase the quality and speed of repairs and performance upgrades.

RGU will put its North-east expertise to work, alongside Span Access – a specialist in alternative access and working at height solutions – along with partners Turner Access Ltd, Turner Iceni, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the University of Dundee.

The BASE project will create an optimised prototype access solution for any challenging blade design, which will be demonstrated at ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Fife.

RGU’s involvement in the project will involve practical research carried out by Dr Arthur Stewart – whose previous award-winning ergonomics work has involved egress and passing ability in confined spaces on offshore installations – alongside Head of the School of Health Sciences, Dawn Mitchell, and Professor Kay Cooper.

Arthur Stewart, senior ergonomics researcher and project leader at RGU, said: “Tasks such as repairing and upgrading turbine blades are typically performed by rope access technicians suspended from the top of the turbine. This can lead to lengthy delays and difficulties due to variable weather and working conditions.

“Our role at RGU will include a series of experiments to compare the effectiveness of completing manual tasks while standing, compared with when suspended on a harness – both at RGU and Span Access’s purpose-built ropes training facility in Kinross.

“We will also complete an ergonomics analysis and health and safety audit of the prototype BASE environment, to ensure it can meet its requirements as effectively as possible. This will go alongside a scoping review to update the evidence base on the health risks of this type of work.”

Ross Turner, Managing Director of Span Access said: “The BASE solution will be faster to deploy and more flexible to use than traditional suspended platforms and so the revenue lost from forced turbine shutdowns associated with blade maintenance will be substantially reduced.

“The BASE habitat environment is also unique. We’ll be able to control the temperature and humidity within the habitat, increasing the weather windows for performing maintenance and improving the quality of complex repairs that require stable environmental conditions for curing materials.”