An offshore wind turbine spends around 7,000 hours in operation a year. This can put a great strain on the different components, such as transmissions, generators, blade bearings and rotor blades. If not serviced regularly, they could break down and generate high repair costs. Per turbine, a day of standstill can easily rack up a bill of €10,000 or more and at a large wind farm, one turbine will stop each day on average.
Operators want to avoid this costly downtime and restore regular operation as quickly as possible. But getting repair teams out to the wind farms is not easy, not least because access depends on the weather conditions. It can take several hours for a boat to get to a wind farm out on the high seas – and that is if the weather is good. The conditions in the North Sea are only ever good enough to ship workers safely out to the turbines on two out of three days. The alternative for many farms is a helicopter, but these are very expensive.
Living and working at sea
The solution when working on wind farms situated far from the coast is to save time and stay out at sea. If the repair team remain out in the North Sea, they can move as soon as the weather window opens and can also cut down travel time. Larger wind farms usually require at least two boats – one for the service team, and one for the installation team – just like at BARD Offshore 1 (BO1), located around 90 kilometres off the coast. Mechanics, electricians and service staff all live on board, spending two weeks working on the wind farm and then returning to the home port to swap in a new team and pick up new spare parts. As well as sleeping areas and canteens, the boats also have offices and lounges for relaxing – just like a floating hotel.
Bremen-based company expands on the East Frisian coast
REETEC is responsible for servicing the wind turbines at the BO1 wind farm. The Bremen-based service provider took over from OWS Off-Shore Wind Solutions GmbH in Emden in summer 2017. OWS was founded in 2013 to maintain the BO1 facility after wind farm manufacturer BARD went into liquidation. You can find out more about this in our article Wind farm optimisation ‘made in Bremen’. “We are responsible for operations at the wind farm”, says Detlef Lindenau, managing director of REETEC. “We have large capacities thanks to the facilities and halls at the Emden Aussenhafen port. We also have 180 workers on site and at sea, as well as access to an installation boat.”