Maintaining offshore wind turbines is expensive and requires careful planning. There are so many uncertainties involved that this planning has become a science in itself. In the European project SPOWTT, TNO and a number of partners have studied how to optimize the turbine maintenance schedules. A planning tool has been developed that allows companies to deploy personnel more effectively and save costs through more efficient maintenance.

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The Safety and Productivity of Offshore Wind Technician Transit research and demonstration project was conducted in conjunction with Siemens (a turbine manufacturer), SMC (a marine consultant), BMO Offshore (a company that measures ship motions), MARIN (a research institute), ORE Catapult (project coordination) and human factor specialists from Hull University.

Sea sickness

To decide whether an operator can transport maintenance personnel to the turbines of a wind farm in a CTV (crew transport vehicle), information is required about the weather conditions, temperature, wind speed and direction, wave heights, etc. that are expected during the day. The new planning tool includes data on the specific work that is to be carried out and which personnel and materials are available. Alongside the weather forecast as a starting point for effective planning, the project also studied human susceptibility to seasickness. By applying psychological and physiological methods from other sectors, they obtained more insight into employee well-being and performance.

Relationship with working practice

Before and after various maintenance trips, members of the maintenance crews were questioned in detail about their physical and mental condition, the work they carried out, and the conditions under which they had sailed and worked. This generated more knowledge and insight into the factors that influence the well-being of maintenance personnel. Thanks to this cooperation with the maintenance company and its employees, it was possible to establish clearer relationships between the results of previous research and actual working practice. The planning tool was then demonstrated to the maintenance teams of various offshore wind farms during several evaluation sessions.

Advanced planning tool

A special feature of the SPOWTT project was the direct involvement of parties involved in the maintenance of offshore wind turbines: the constructor, the operator and the maintenance company. These parties now have access to an advanced planning tool that calculates the most optimum schedule and maintenance activities to ensure both the maintenance work and the trip there and back are carried out as efficiently as possible. This results in more access to the turbines and hence less turbine downtime, more effective deployment of personnel, higher productivity and lower costs.

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