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Does The Evolution Of Wind Energy Present New Challenges?

Posted: 11/10/2017

There’s no denying that the wind energy sector has changed significantly in recent years. From the falling price of producing this form of electricity to the vast size of the new turbines and their increased capabilities, we’ve seen the technology evolve to meet increased demand.

Oilprice.com has pointed out that the windfarm sector has also adapted to increasingly challenging conditions, highlighting the completion of the first offshore windfarm designed to be able to withstand ice-prone conditions.

The website looked at the challenges faced in developing this wind farm, which is located in the waters off Finland. The Tahkoluoto offshore wind farm was completed this summer, with Suomen Hyötytulli Oy taking on its operation at the end of August.

According to the firm, the development of turbines that can withstand such cold conditions started in 2010, when the company installed its first offshore wind turbine in the Baltic Sea. Since then, technology has come along in leaps and bounds to the point where the firm is able to provide wind power on an industrial scale.

It points out that the conditions faced in the waters off the Finnish coast are different to those experienced in the North Sea. Finnish offshore wind providers have to contend with a sea that freezes at certain times of the year, as well as a shallow coastline and a hard sea floor.

Of course, once such turbines are up and running there are other challenges associated with their maintenance as well, not least of all keeping any staff safe when they’re visiting or working on the structures in such a hostile environment.

Wherever you’re operating an offshore wind farm it’s essential to make sure all of your staff have undertaken GWO working at heights training and are familiar with their site-based emergency response plans and procedures, helping them to be response and handle specific risks such as – fire, floods, chemical spill and medical incident.

But the changes to the turbines and the kinds of conditions they can withstand aren’t the only ways in which the industry is evolving. Oilprice.com also highlighted the growing use of drones to help carry out inspections on offshore turbines.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become an important piece of technology in the inspection and maintenance of these vast energy-generating structures. Aside from the obvious benefit of not having to put a member of staff in harm’s way, there are other advantages to UAVs.

According to the website, when an inspection of a wind turbine is required, a UAV takes around 75 per cent less time to complete the job than a roped team, and what’s more it doesn’t require the partial or full shutdown of the turbine to do so.

These drones too have evolved to match the conditions in which wind farms are located. There are now UAVs capable of withstanding winds of just over 40 miles per hour, while carrying a variety of weights.

It’s clear that this technology will also develop as wind turbines become larger and more efficient, not to mention being located in ever-more remote areas of our oceans.

Keeping up with the technological changes is just half of the battle, though. Making sure your staff are all adequately trained to not only use this technology, but to work in these challenging environments should the need arise is also crucial for the continued success of this form of energy generation.