Barge smashes into wind turbine

STEPHEN PULLINGER Vital maintenance work on Scroby Sands windfarm, off the Norfolk coast, has been interrupted after an accident involving the giant jack-up barge Sea Energy.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Vital maintenance work on Scroby Sands windfarm, off the Norfolk coast, has been interrupted after an accident involving the giant jack-up barge Sea Energy.

While manoeuvring off the Yarmouth coast on Friday, one of the vessel's huge legs, which provides a stable working platform by anchoring itself to the seabed, clipped a blade on one of the 30 turbines.

Windfarm owner E.ON UK and the Health and Safety Executive immediately launched a full investigation into the incident that has put the turbine out of action.

Company spokesman Jamee Majid said: “It was only a light touch but about 20cm was broken off the tip of the 40m blade.

“We are looking at whether it can be repaired or will have to be replaced. If that is the case it will have to be ordered and may take some time.”

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Mr Majid stressed that no one had been injured in the accident.

Since the collision, Sea Energy, hired from Holland at a massive daily rate, has remained moored in Yarmouth's port.

Mr Majid said: “Further maintenance work has had to be stopped because of the sea conditions.

“Sea Energy can only work at a maximum wave height of 1.3m and it is currently at 1.8m. We are hoping to restart on Saturday but most likely on Sunday.”

Gusty conditions on Scroby Sands has seen unforeseen wear on some of the turbine parts, including the gearboxes, which has led to a number of breakdowns.

Engineers from turbine manufacturers Vestas Celtic are making modifications to address the issues as part of the current maintenance programme.

The teething problems were responsible for Scroby Sands falling 10pc short of its generating target in its first year of operation.

But windfarm manager Jon Beresford is confident that once they have been sorted out, there is every chance of exceeding their predicted target of generating enough power for 41,000 homes, equivalent to the whole of Yarmouth, Gorleston and Caister.

Mr Majid said: “Once we have restarted, the maintenance work will take about another six weeks and the modifications will improve the performance of the turbines.”

Scroby Sands was one of the two biggest offshore windfarms in Britain when it opened two years ago and the industry is keeping a keen eye on its performance ahead of the expected massive expansion in wind energy.

Within a matter of years, windfarms 15 times the size are envisaged further out to sea.