The first contracted helicopter flights for servicing a UK offshore windfarm are set to begin at Greater Gabbard, following all of the project’s 140 turbines becoming operational last week.
Greater Gabbard, a 504MW wind farm off England’s east coast, is owned by a 50:50 joint venture of SSE and RWE. It began generating electricity from all of its 140 Siemens 3.6MW turbines on Friday 7 September.
Bond Air Services will in October begin running the first support contract of its kind in the UK, providing helicopter operation and maintenance (O&M) services to Greater Gabbard.
Bond Air Services' commercial manager for marine services, David Bond, said that projects using helicopters as part of their O&M strategy can expect to see improvements in overall productivity. When sea conditions prevent O&M operators from using vessels, access to turbines that need repairing can be delayed by days or even weeks.
Many of the Round 1 offshore projects currently operational in the UK, however, are too close to the shore and have too few turbines to warrant the cost of a dedicated helicopter service. This is changing fast, as the larger Round 2 projects such as Greater Gabbard come on line.
"Our role at Greater Gabbard will be to support the delivery of technicians to the turbine nacelles by hoist," Bond told Windpower Offshore. "Vessels have access limitations associated with wave heights – we don’t have that problem," he added.
With 140 turbines, Greater Gabbard’s size makes having a helicopter as part of the O&M solution viable. "The project has a significant number of turbines and is quite a way from the service base," said Bond. "These turbines generate income, so any loss of revenue from a problem with one of them soon adds up."