Spotlight on offshore wind industry

The complexities and demands of the rapidly evolving offshore wind industry were discussed at a sector event at OrbisEnergy in Lowestoft last week.

Nearly 200 delegates at trade body RenewableUK's first event in the East of England heard about wind projects from one of the first in the UK – the 30-turbine site at Scroby Sands off Great Yarmouth, to plans for up to 1,000 turbines in the East Anglia Offshore Wind project 40km off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.

One is the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard site off Suffolk, which is already producing power.

Stephen Rose, offshore wind operations manager for operator SSE, said it was fully serviced from Lowestoft and was one of the first sites in the UK to use a helicopter to support workboats which ferried technicians and equipment to and from the port daily. However, Tim Blackmore, of Vestas Offshore, outlined how the Bligh Bank wind farm off Belgium housed up to 18 technicians for two weeks at a time on a 'floatel' mother ship with a gym, cinema, free internet connection and even a small hospital suite. They were transferred daily to turbines by a smaller Fast Rescue Craft. Critical safety issues for the transfer of personnel around wind farms were the focus of Paul Fox, health and safety manager for Gardline Marine Science, while Stephen Bolton, of Offshore Marine Management, wanted more attention on what was below water rather than the turbines themselves.

Martin Reinholdsson, from Swedish company Vattenfall, one of the partners in the East Anglian project, said their operations would be based locally for 30 plus years but their challenge was collaboration in the supply chains.