UK’s New Offshore Wind Farms Will See More O&M from the Sky

The next phase of offshore wind farms in the UK will drive increased use of helicopters offshore, according to Douglas-Westwood (DW).

The research and consultancy company expects helicopters to become an integral part of the offshore wind industry’s O&M mix and forecasts steady growth in helicopter demand to 2025, primarily in Western European markets.

In Germany and Denmark, helicopters regularly service offshore wind farms – rapid response time and lack of dependence on sea conditions are both key motives for use. As such, helicopters are expected to feature in many future projects within the region, factored into a new style of O&M strategy, DW said.

In the UK, use of helicopters for offshore wind operations and maintenance (O&M) is still relatively rare – limited to the Greater Gabbard and Westermost Rough projects.

The upcoming projects like Hornsea, which are both larger in scale and farther from shore, will require a strategy beyond the use of personnel transfer vessels (PTVs). There is no one-size-fits-all O&M approach for these giant wind farms, and risk-averse operators may see helicopters as a high risk alternative to vessels. However, the benefits are clear – time saving on turbine repair (i.e. minimizing downtime) is crucial and helicopters enable rapid access to turbines in harsher weather conditions, DW explained.

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