Offshore wind farms are now a familiar sight out at sea: they generate renewable electricity round the clock and are therefore an essential element on the way to making the energy revolution happen. This may sound simple, but establishing and continually maintaining these facilities entails an enormous amount of work. You could also say that a different wind blows at offshore sites than at normal wind farms. In contrast to their counterparts on land, all the equipment and components and the necessary personnel have to make their way to the platforms on board a ship. However, this is only possible if the weather is suitable as the employees not only work on the platform itself, but also in the turbine near the top of each tower. Regardless of which manufacturer is involved, XERVON Wind operates as an independent service provider and covers all the fields of activity that are relevant for this range of output – whether this involves regular servicing work, maintenance, repairs or even retrofits to enhance power output.
The sea is calm and visibility is excellent: summer is the best time of the year for maintaining and servicing offshore wind farms. In order to make the best use of what is usually a rather short period without any fog and storms, the employees at XERVON have to be prepared to work at any time, as Maik Schlapmann, the Managing Director of XERVON Wind, reveals. ‘We can’t work if the general conditions aren’t right. If the weather is suitable, we have to make full use of every good opportunity and this isn’t the kind of work that starts at 9 a.m. and finishes punctually at 5 p.m. In practice, this involves combining seamless processes with a maximum degree of safety. Health and safety at work is always our top priority and is an aspect where XERVON Wind complies with the highest standards.’ This is why the wind turbines are shut down for the time that it takes to complete the work. But even a few hours of inactivity means a huge loss of energy at a multi-megawatt unit. Fast and systematic work procedures are therefore essential. This is not an easy task, particularly because of the long journeys to some wind farms, which may involve trips of more than 100 kilometres. Given the time required for these journeys, daily arrivals and departures are impossible. XERVON Wind’s technicians therefore often live and work out at sea because of this restriction and make use of a working vessel. Land-based processes are only an option if the distance to the mainland is short or if an island is located nearby. If that is the case, a commuter vessel transports the teams of technicians to the offshore wind turbines. Huge distances also have to be covered within wind farms themselves, which normally extend over distances measuring up to 30 square kilometres.
Service providers that operate offshore have to be extremely flexible at all times because of the many variables such as the weather, the swell or the very tight planning times. Having the relevant fleet and logistics infrastructure, which is connected to the technical services, can be particularly helpful here. XERVON Wind has been cooperating with its affiliated company, Rhenus Offshore Logistics, ever since it was founded – and this is a strong and huge benefit for the experienced wind specialists. This means that XERVON Wind has a high-quality service provider for its own business field at its side. After all, Rhenus Offshore Logistics is an end-to-end provider and has had many years of experience in the wide variety of logistics services required for offshore wind farms. They include, for example, transport to and from the ports, crew transfers, chartering vessels or even coordinating complete maritime operations. The services cover the entire logistics chain and include the port logistics, offshore transportation and wind farm services. Commissioning platforms is one of its major areas of specialisation and this involves transporting the parts out to sea as well as transferring personnel and supply trips to offshore platforms. The company offers access to logistics experts in order to complete its offshore operations. XERVON Wind, operating with offshore warehouse personnel from Rhenus Offshore Logistics, was able to organise a joint service operation vessel (SOV) for a service and maintenance procedure just this year.
The strong synergies achieved through cooperation were quickly evident: XERVON Wind has available logistics expertise and services at any time, while Rhenus can always offer its own customers a maintenance solution. Thanks to the tried and tested cooperation arrangement, both service partners are familiar with each other’s contact partners. As a result, there is no need for inconvenient interfaces or drawn-out coordination processes when completing projects in actual practice. This creates top-class value added for the customer and operator of the wind farms. Björn Wittek, the Managing Director of Rhenus Offshore Logistics, is very positive about the smooth partnership. ‘The complementary skills and service areas offer an overall package which is perfectly geared towards the special offshore requirements.’ And Rhenus and XERVON Wind also share corporate values: employee safety, customers’ interests and making practically orientated system solutions available are the main focus of their work. Maik Schlapmann comments additionally, ‘Whether from Rhenus Offshore Logistics or XERVON Wind – we can provide real benefits for wind farm operators through our cooperation within the Group and you cannot find that everywhere. This is an asset, which is particularly important in the demanding offshore business.’
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