Sennen 10 Questions On… involving O&M technicians during offshore wind farm construction.

5th March 2024

Continuing our new series, where we discuss ten interesting questions about important topics in the offshore wind industry. In this second part, our offshore wind expert, Mike Young, talks about the importance of involving operations and maintenance technicians during the construction phase of offshore wind farms.

1. What is an O&M technician?

A technician who specialises in the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the wind farm. O&M differs from construction because it focuses on planned servicing, upgrades and troubleshooting. An O&M technician is usually part of a longer-term O&M team that could work on the same site for the full lifetime of the wind farm.

2. When does the O&M team start work?

Ideally, the O&M team will be in place for the handover of the turbines from the construction team after the final commissioning and acceptance tests have been completed. This is usually a staggered process, with individual turbines being handed over as they are completed. Therefore the O&M team needs to be in place for the first handover but might start with only one or two turbines.

3. Why do you need O&M technicians before the first turbine handover?

During the commissioning phase, the turbine is run for the first time. This often involves testing and fault finding that might never happen again. The knowledge and experience gained during this phase is extremely valuable and can help in the O&M phase throughout the lifetime of the turbine.

4. Why not document all of this information?

All of the commissioning data will be recorded and handed over to the O&M team upon completion. However, the recorded data only paints half of the picture. The experience a technician can gain by being part of the commissioning team cannot be learnt from a commissioning checklist.

5. How do you train an O&M technician?

A technician needs to know how to operate and maintain the turbine. This is often covered by specific turbine courses provided by the turbine manufacturer (OEM). However, this can take a long time and often doesn’t cover the site-specific detail that can be gained by having technicians involved with the commissioning activity.

6. What else does an O&M technician need to know?

A technician also needs to know how to safely access a turbine and what to do in an emergency. Training courses such as sea survival, working at heights, first aid, fire awareness and offshore transfer cover the safety basics.

7. So if it’s such a good idea, why doesn’t it happen?

It does happen but there are some significant challenges that mean it doesn’t happen as often as it should. As the O&M technicians are learning from the commissioning teams, they will be additional members of the team and require extra resources such as space on vessels, wages, training and equipment.

8. So how early should O&M be considered by the construction project?

O&M should be a consideration from the first design ideas and costs of a new project. The operations phase will last for 25+ years so a missing O&M cost could change the economics of a wind farm once built.

9. Apart from cost, what other O&M requirements should be considered?

Being able to access the turbine when required is a big factor for the O&M teams. Foundations, transition pieces and helicopter decks should all consider O&M access. Regular maintenance will need to be carried out throughout the year so adequate lifting equipment and landing space should be available. It is also possible that some of the major components such as gearboxes, main bearings, generators and blades might need to be exchanged.

10. How can you ensure that all O&M requirements are considered?

If you can have some experienced O&M people within the project team from an early stage they can document all of the O&M functional requirements and ensure they are given due consideration during the design and pre-final Investment Decision stages.

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