A new innovation call seeking a solution to increase the physical separation of technicians in the confined spaces of offshore crew transfer vessels (CTVs) during the COVID-19 pandemic launched today (Thursday 7 May), aimed at improving the safety of personnel required to continue to travel to undertake wind farm inspection, maintenance and repair.
Social distancing measures due to COVID-19 are forcing some operators to limit CTV operations to a maximum of four passengers, a considerable reduction from the usual 12 or 24. This impacts the amount of work that can be undertaken on a wind farm, affecting jobs and ultimately energy production.
In response, ORE Catapult’s O&M Centre of Excellence is working with the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), offshore wind health and safety group G+ and the Workboat Association to set up a cross-sector CTV innovation challenge in search of a rapid solution, such as a partition, that can be deployed onboard the vessels and allow an increase in passenger and crew numbers.
The challenge was identified by members of the Operational Contingency initiative, established by ORE Catapult’s O&M Centre of Excellence in response to the Covid-19 crisis. COVID-19 is creating unprecedented challenges for the global offshore wind industry, and this initiative brings together wind farm owners, OEMs, supply chain, membership bodies, Government and regulators to address the key issues and challenges being faced.
Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s Operational Performance Director, said:
“Being able to operate and maintain the UK’s offshore wind fleet safely in the face of COVID-19 is essential to keep the lights on and safeguard thousands of jobs. It will also be vital in accelerating UK economic recovery and meeting our decarbonisation targets as we exit this crisis.
“Our Operational Contingency initiative has responded quickly to the unprecedented challenges we are faced with and is moving quickly to find and implement solutions in support of business continuity and the safe operation of critical clean energy infrastructure.”
The innovation call presents a significant commercial opportunity to the successful solution provider, with the potential to offer the solution to workboat operators in other industries.
Kate Harvey, General Manager of the G+, said:
“As offshore wind farm generation continues to be required, G+ members across the globe are looking for innovative ways to keep their workers safe. The G+ is hopeful that this project will uncover solutions that can ensure this and are delighted that the Workboat Association is also involved so as to ensure that any solutions are able to work in practice.”
Kerrie Forster, Chief Executive of the Workboat Association, added:
“It is within our interest to ensure that safety levels on board workboats are maintained to the highest standards at all times, whilst also working hard to increase safe pax numbers on board enabling our clients the most efficient and professional service. Together we are looking for innovations and possibilities to help us reach our ambitions.”
Chris Bagley, Head of Infrastructure Systems, KTN said:
“KTN’s OWIX platform is designed to promote innovation transfer between sectors, often bringing to the attention of challenge holders novel solutions from smaller providers outwith their own industry area. Many of KTN’s teams have had to pivot to deal with the fall out from Covid-19 and the OWIX system is ideal to help solve critical industry problems. This is a crucial challenge and KTN’s reach across diverse sectors including Materials, Composites and Health will prove invaluable to sourcing an innovative solution to it.”