Renewable Energy - Offshore Wind
Offshore Wind is one of the most acceptable forms of renewable energy. Being offshore, it is in no-ones back yard and has enabled the deployment of far bigger turbine structures than would be permitted on land. The early days of Offshore Wind saw small wind farms developed within the territorial sea. However, following the Round 3 concessions that were granted by the UK Crown Estate at the beginning of 2011, Offshore Wind has moved further offshore and well beyond the limits of the Territorial Sea where a mandatory VTS could be established, as appropriate, to manage maritime vessel activity. The UK Round 3 concessions licensed developers to produce up to 32GW of offshore wind power generation brining the total potential renewable capacity for UK to over 40GW.
However, placing a huge array of substantial, high value assets within the sea area does present a potential hazard to navigation and also requires a substantial number of vessels, people and other infrastructure to support its construction and operations. An offshore wind construction site carries many of the same hazards as any onshore building site but it is more difficult to protect an offshore wind construction site from third party access, whether deliberate or accidental.
Health & Safety regulations mean that any wind farm developer must ensure adequate safety for all personnel (onshore and offshore). For offshore wind farms, health & safety regulations also meet maritime safety regulations and therefore a safety focussed environment for offshore development has greater challenges that must be overcome. In particular, deploying personnel from workboats to turbine structures involves substantial risk.
The larger the offshore wind farm, the more important it is to manage the sea area around it. The further offshore it is, the more remote monitoring will be required. With many planned offshore wind farms being beyond the range of the coastal sensors used by maritime authorities, it will become essential that the wind farm operations management is able to manage its offshore sea area for itself, especially during the construction phase of its lifecycle.