Scottish company Span Access Solutions is developing a new system to access offshore wind turbine blades, which could save £1.05bn across the offshore wind farms in Europe.


Image: Span Access alternative access and working at height solution. Photo courtesy of Offshore Renewable Energy.

Backed by Innovate UK, the £830k Blade Access System and Working Environment (BASE) project will develop a tower-mounted blade access system and habitat for technicians undertaking blade maintenance. This is expected to reduce maintenance costs and minimize turbine downtime and lost revenue.

Based in Kinross and Methil, Span Access is specializes in alternative access and working at height solutions.

The company will work in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, Turner Access, Turner Iceni, and Dundee and Robert Gordon Universities to adapt its product suite to a solution for offshore wind.

The purpose-built, modular access platform technology product’s systems can be designed to accommodate improved access to any challenging blade design.

The BASE project is aimed at creating an optimized prototype access solution for offshore wind farms, which will be demonstrated at ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Fife.

Span Access managing director Ross Turner said: “The BASE solution will be faster to deploy and more flexible to use than traditional suspended platforms and so the revenue lost from forced turbine shutdowns associated with blade maintenance will be substantially reduced.

“The BASE habitat environment is also unique. We’ll be able to control the temperature and humidity within the habitat, increasing the weather windows for performing maintenance and improving the quality of complex repairs that require stable environmental conditions for curing materials.”

Typically, repair of blades and installation of performance upgrades are performed using rope access technicians and access platforms suspended from the turbine nacelle, resulting in turbine downtime, lost energy production, and unsatisfactory quality of repairs due to variable weather and working conditions.

ORE Catapult strategy manager Andy Kay said: “The BASE project could revolutionise offshore wind blade access and repair. The project will deliver a solution that can be used by all blade maintenance providers and will reduce the number of repairs and associated costs required over the lifetime of an offshore wind project and help improve health and safety.”