A Scottish entrepreneur has developed an innovative personal winch system that could help revolutionise the offshore wind industry.
The hoist adjusts itself to compensate for rough seas, increasing the safety of workers climbing offshore turbines to carry out maintenance works in extreme conditions.
The invention, which could remove the need for ladders and tonnes of steel infrastructure on turbine bases, has received backing from one of the world’s leading offshore wind developers.
The device is the brainchild of Edinburgh-born entrepreneur Philip Taylor, a keen mountaineer and rock climber with a fascination for the challenges of industrial rope access and working at height.
Known as Get Up Safe (Gus), the winch is a responsive auto-belay system – a sort of intelligent robot climbing partner.
It uses lasers and sensors to detect the position of the boat deck and the action of the waves in order to safely hoist technicians from a transfer vessel onto a turbine platform.
As well as allowing access during wilder conditions than current methods, the powered lift reduces the physical stresses for workers – who often have to climb up and down ladders dressed in heavy survival gear several times a day to carry out routine duties.
The final design is the culmination of two years of testing and collaboration between Mr Taylor’s Fife-based height safety specialist firm Limpet Technology and Danish developer Ørsted.
A new firm, Pict Offshore – a joint venture between the two – has been set up to bring the technology to market.
Philip Taylor, managing director at Pict Offshore, says the device had been specially created to cater for the specific challenges of accessing infrastructure at sea.
“In order to safely lift people on and off the boats we needed to be able to track the location and movement of the deck,” he said.
“If you are standing on the vessel and you are clipped into our system it will take in and pay out the line at the same speed as the deck is rising and falling on the waves. It’s what we call a heave-compensated personnel hoist.
“It uses a number of different sensors and technologies to allow that deck tracking to happen – a laser measurement system on the turbine itself and a sensor on the vessel to measure where the deck is and ensure the person on the line is always going to be safe.”
The Gus system has been developed with support from Scottish Enterprise and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, with field testing at Ørsted wind farms.
Mark Porter, senior vice president for offshore operations at Ørsted, which owns a 22.5 per cent share in Pict, said: “The offshore wind sector already has a proven track record of innovation and rapid cost reduction, and we’re continually looking at new technologies to enhance both the construction and maintenance of our projects.
“This game-changing new technology can provide a more efficient, safe and cost-effective way of transferring technicians onto offshore wind turbines.”