Inflatable Offshore Wind Turbine Service Habitat Launched

An inflatable habitat that attaches to platforms for servicing the blades of wind turbines has been launched by GEV Wind Power.

The inflatable structure is fixed to a blade access platform — the company is currently working with Power Climber Wind in Belgium to develop the initial platform integration — and will feature a sleeve and top seal that fixes to the blade. As the platform moves down the blade the sleeve extends, maintaining a climate-controlled and waterproof environment within.

Alastair Gadney, Projects Director at GEV Wind Power, explains that repairs using resins and leading edge protection tapes can require curing temperatures and other environmental conditions that are all too often a challenge to achieve in all wind turbine environments, particularly offshore.

The Blade Habitat is designed to dramatically reduce the number of cancelled maintenance days, over 50 percent of which result from adverse weather conditions, and is already rated for use at the same wind speeds as rope access regulations.

Currently in the prototype development phase with field trials scheduled for the first quarter of 2015, Gadney tells REW that GEV Wind Power will be undertaking modular testing of the system at the Myers Hill wind turbine site in East Kilbride.  With strong interest from OEMs seeking to conduct their own trials, the company is targeting serial manufacture in 2015.

David Fletcher, Managing Director of the GEV Group, explained the thinking behind the design, saying: “Habitat structures have worked well in the oil and gas sector for many years and we decided to migrate the idea across to offshore wind. Wind speeds, rain, temperature and humidity all significantly impact on an engineer’s ability to complete scheduled maintenance. However, when you also factor in the length of time it takes to physically get an engineer out to a wind farm, which is often a round trip of several hours, the window of opportunity available to undertake any maintenance is very narrow indeed. Our new offshore habitat structure will mitigate the weather risk and enable engineers, once on-site, to work unhindered in a controlled environment.”

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David Appleyard is a contributing editor. Formerly Editor in Chief of Renewable Energy World and sister renewable energy magazines Wind Technology, Large Scale Solar and HRW - Hydro Review Worldwide, now a freelance journalist and photographer contributing to a wide range of on-line and print publications. David has some 20 years' experience of writing about the renewable energy sector and is based in Europe.

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