Welcome to the wind farm technician’s worst hour

It’s a pretty thankless task, saving the world. Those massive wind turbines turning far out to sea need careful nurturing as they fight global warming and bring down the cost of energy.

To look after these gigantic machines, technicians must rise with the first light and prepare meticulously for the day ahead.

Each technician travels many hours a day, from home to a distant port and then out into the vast ocean, enduring drizzle, cold and wind. Then they climb into the belly of an air-slicing monster and scale hundreds of feet into the grey North Sea sky.

There they must stay alert for the tiniest details, like the hairline crack that gives away a budding blade failure or the flicker on a boroscope that signals a gearbox in trouble.

The work must be done carefully but fast: fading light, changing tide, wind picking up, a storm front moving in, can all add to the pressure to work as quickly as possible.

Still, though, every observation must be meticulously noted down, because tomorrow another technician could be climbing these same rungs and looking for the same hairline crack. Then it’s back to the vessel and the long, cold trip back to port.

All the technician wants to do now is get home, to a warm supper. They can’t, though. Instead, they must go to the office and log every note, every incident, every update, into the system, so tomorrow’s crews know where to go and what to look for.

That final hour, cursing as numb fingers make mistakes and numb neurons search for details, is the offshore wind farm technician’s worst. But it need not be so.

With Papertrail, the nightmare hour ceases to exist, because everything they do can be logged as they work. A crack on a blade? Save the photo on Papertrail. A check that a safety hatch is in working order? Add it to Papertrail. A missing harness? Notify it on Papertrail.

Then, as soon as the technician comes within reach of a mobile or Wi-Fi network, the notes on their mobile device flow seamlessly onto the system. So the technician steps off the vessel, waves goodbye, and heads home to get a good night’s rest before the next day.

 Working in renewables? Find out more about how Papertrail can make your life easier.

Britain’s going green. Let’s make sure it does so safely.

We live in exciting times for the energy industry. A shift to clean power is taking hold around the world. And one of the best examples in recent months has been the UK.

The country that spawned the industrial revolution, and with it a growing global appetite for coal, has moved into renewables in a big way. In April, the UK went without coal for an entire day, for the first time since around 1882.

This was after coal’s contribution to the UK energy system dropped to just 9% in 2016, compared to 23% in 2015. By 2025, coal is expected to have been phased out of the system altogether.

And this month the National Grid reported that renewable energy (meaning wind, solar, hydro and biomass) had for the first time in the modern era provided more than half of UK electricity supplies.

“For the first time ever this lunchtime wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than both gas and coal combined,” National Grid said.

For anyone who is concerned about man-made climate change, this is great news. And the inexorable rise of renewables is good for jobs, too.

Not only do clean-energy industries create high-value employment, but the work is safe: wind engineers are more than 660 times less likely to suffer a fatal accident than people working in the coal industry, for example.

Most of this difference comes from the hazardous nature of coal mining, though. Let’s not kid ourselves: working on a turbine nacelle at 80 metres above ground is hardly a cakewalk. One slip could be fatal.

And the risks are even higher in the offshore wind farms that industry attention is shifting to. To maintain its well-earned reputation for safety, the renewables sector must work harder than ever to make sure things don’t go wrong.

That means checking, double-checking and triple-checking equipment. Making sure everyone is trained up to the highest standard. Confirming all components have the right certifications and quality stamps. And keeping records of the whole lot.

As the need to focus on workplace safety gets ever more key, storing records on Excel spreadsheets or bits of paper is no longer really an option.

If an engineer needs to confirm that a harness has passed its latest safety check, and they are in a ship in the North Sea, having a record back in the office just won’t cut it. Thankfully, there are smarter ways to do things now. The industry just needs to adopt them, fast.

Renewables – an industry where time is money…

windfarmThose acquainted with wind power know that operating turbines is in fact dependent on split-second reactions and rapid responses to changing conditions. This requirement for operational flexibility has grown as the renewables energy industry has sought to bring down operations and maintenance (O&M) costs and thereby reduce the levelised cost of wind energy (LCOE).

The move from reactive to preventive or even predictive maintenance regimes, which have been shown to cut costs by 24% and 47% respectively, has forced wind farm operators to embrace new data-driven technologies and processes that improve efficiency.

Mastering the rapid exchange of detailed, accurate turbine operations data is critical for improving power output, reducing downtime and delivering meaningful management reports, all of which can have a very significant impact on wind farm profitability.
Read more in the Papertrail white paper…

Five Ways Rope Access Technicians Can Improve Operational Efficiency

Vertical working has always been high risk and challenging. Gaining access, staying safe, protecting those working from falls and knowing your means of descent or rescue are all part of the job for Rope Access technicians and managers. 

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Capture More Real-Time Data: Improving Asset Management Decisions

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We’ve recently announced that Papertrail is now managing over 2,000,000 safety and compliance records from over 2,100 account users around the world. We are processing more real-time data every day with a platform simple enough for small organisations and powerful enough for multinationals.

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Asset Management: Mission Critical for Renewable Energy Companies

asset-management-wind-turbine

Renewable energy is increasingly popular across Europe and the rest of the world. In the UK alone, renewables – wind, solar, bioenergy – account for 20% of the UK’s energy mix. In 2015, green energy generated more electricity than nuclear and coal for a whole quarter.

Indeed, the now-historic Paris climate deal, signed at the COP 21: UN climate change conference in December 2015, could not have taken place if countries and private industry weren’t already committed to renewable energy. Continue Reading…

Siemens and Gamesa to Create World’s Largest Wind Energy Company

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Green energy is big business. Since 2015, green energy now generates more electricity than nuclear and coal in the UK. Wind is a vital – and growing – component of this and many other countries energy resources. The wind energy market is about to get more competitive, with the recent announcement that Siemens and Gamesa, a Spanish wind giant, are going to merge their wind farm and service businesses. Continue Reading…