In recent years, fishing communities in North West Europe have reaped numerous benefits from the rise of offshore wind – fishing vessels and their crews have been regularly employed for the transfer of technicians and equipment to wind farms off the coast. As the industry has evolved, there has been rapid growth in the use of purpose-build Personnel Transfer Vessels (PTV) for the same purpose. This remains a viable and low-cost option for many projects, but developers are now exploring innovative logistics solutions for rapid access to wind farms – the industry is modernizing rapidly and looking to the sky.
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. However, for our North Sea neighbours, it is more commonplace. 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.
The next phase of offshore wind farms in the UK are expected to drive increased use of helicopters offshore. Upcoming projects like Hornsea are both larger in scale and farther from shore, requiring a strategy beyond the use of personnel transfer vessels. There is no one-size fits all O&M approach for these giant windfarms, 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 expect helicopters to become an integral part of the offshore wind industry’s O&M mix. Consequently, we forecast steady growth in helicopter demand to 2025, primarily in Western European markets with experience in offshore aviation derived from a long history of oil and gas.
Celia Hayes, Douglas-Westwood London
+44 1795 594747 or [email protected]