Windfarm workers could soon be transported to turbines by helicopter.
Engineers working on windfarms off the coast of Cumbria could be transferred by helicopter by the end of 2012.
Both Dong Energy and Vattenfall, which operate windfarms off the coast of Walney, have admitted they are looking at the possibility of helicopter transfer – effectively lowering workers directly onto the turbines.
Workers are transferred using adapted vessels but the energy companies say this method of transport is often subject to delays because of the weather and sea.
Jens Nybo Jensen, from Dong Energy, said the company was already in talks with a helicopter firm.
Mr Jensen said: “Helicopter transfer of technicians is more weather robust than transfer by boat.
“For safety reasons we stop personal transfer from vessels to turbines at a specific wave height. An unfavourable wind direction or current can even stop the operation at lower wave heights.
“Compared to this the helicopter is more weather robust and can access the turbines at up to wind speeds of 20 m/s. This method was used on one of the world’s first offshore windfarms, the Horns Rev 1, constructed in the North Sea in 2002 by Dong Energy.
“The transportation to Walney Offshore Windfarms is currently taking place with the two tailor-made service vessels, situated in Barrow. We have however been in contact with a UK-based helicopter service company working to develop helicopter transportation services, and assisted the same company in developing an operational manual for the Irish Sea region where our wind park is and allowed them to conduct practice flights to one of our wind turbines.
“These practice flights are to enable the helicopter company to gain Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval for helicopter transfers.
“Dong Energy are still investigating the possibility of helicopter transfers but it is unlikely to happen at Walney until the helicopter company is licensed to do so and when we are satisfied that it is a viable option.”
Vattenfall, which owns the Ormonde development, is also looking at helicopter transfer.
Bosses said they would assess the need for helicopter transfer on a “case by case basis” and may begin using the new method of transfer in the next 12 months but the preferred option was still vessel transfer.
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