There is no such thing as a typical week on our wind farms at Fred.Olsen Renewables but there are activities that are carefully planned and scheduled into every day, week, month and year that ensure the wind farms are efficient, safe and maintain the environment around them. The staff on site includes specialist maintenance technicians from our turbine suppliers as well as site managers and a team of ecologists. They ensure the site’s maintenance, power generation and ecology are properly managed. This is some of the work that is carried out in a typical week at our wind farms:
The environment around the wind farm.
Many of our wind farms are located on upland moorland or forestry areas and the ecologists visit site on a regular basis to take detailed measurements of the water quality in the many burns (streams) that have been restored as part of the wind farm development. Many of the water courses had become blocked or silted up over many years and the environmental work carried out by our team has meant many types of plant and animal life have returned to the moorlands. The work is carefully planned with The Upland Moorland Committee locally in Scotland and working with the RSPB, there are regular bird surveys carried out.
In recent years the results have been encouraging and at Rothes Wind Farm for example, a breeding pair of hen harriers have returned to the moor following the work by the team. Ground nesting birds are now protected by the work the ecologists do in controlling vermin (which aren’t native to the moors), this in turn provides a stable food chain for hunting raptors such as hen harriers.
The weather is always changing.
Our wind farms are built in carefully chosen sites to capture the wind, but this is the UK, so the weather is always on the move. Each morning, a detailed forecast is updated and the team on site use the data to plan maintenance and energy production and also to ensure visitors and workers are always safe.
In very strong winds the site is closed to people because of the danger to vehicles on the access roads. The snow in winter can slow life down for people on the wind farm but does not affect the wind turbine’s generation capacity. Thanks to annual agreements set up with local farmers and other contractors the snow is cleared quickly to allow full access to all the installations on site.
The daily forecast is also vital to the power generation from the wind turbines. The modern turbines can now generate power in winds as low as 4m/s (meters per second) and as high as 25m/s.
What happens when the wind isn’t blowing? We use the time productively to carry out maintenance on the WTG (wind turbine generators). Although the wind nearly always blows in the wind farm locations because they are carefully chosen, when it is calm the time is not wasted. The UK is unlike almost any other area in the world in that it has many wind microclimates. This means that if one of our wind farms is not windy and our technicians are doing maintenance, in our other locations the wind is nearly always generating power.
The map of Europe (above) shows the highest average wind speeds as the dark grey areas. Scotland and the northern part of the UK, where our wind farms are located enjoys the most consistently high winds in Europe.
In addition to the team of staff who manage the wind farms, day to day life on the wind farms is supported by a team of other local people, from cleaning teams, electricians and plumbers in our control centres, to local agricultural workers who maintain the access tracks, fencing and ditches as part of the important land management work. Much of this later work is done in the summer months but in the winter we have contracts with local farmers, who clear the snow and ice from the access roads and keep us up and running.
Health and safety around the wind farms is taken very seriously as you would expect and all our staff have to complete extensive training before working on the WTGs.
To get an idea of the working environment, look at our video “Inside a wind turbine with Fred.Olsen Renewables” which is on our media page.
The combination of a relatively new industry and our many years of experience in engineering, shipping and energy production gives us the opportunity to transfer skills into our wind farms and develop purpose designed health and safety processes to very high standards.
Fred.Olsen Renewables sites are part of the local economy. As well as providing local jobs both directly and in service industries such as cafés, guest houses and transport, we are also actively involved in supporting local community projects by setting up Local Community Funds that provide money to local community councils who in turn pay for projects that enhance the villages in the area.
To find out more about Local Community Funds go to the individual wind farm pages on this web site and click on the link at the bottom of the page.
Education about renewable energy is becoming part of the curriculum in many schools and our wind farm managers try to get involved as much as their busy schedules allow. We have hosted tours of the wind farms for all sections of the community but showing school children around is particularly rewarding. Renewables are an important part of our future energy supply and we think it’s important that the next generation understand how the industry works. You never know, it might fire them with enthusiasm to pursue it as a future career.
If you think you would like to work in the wind farm industry and are currently at school or higher education then there are often opportunities to get apprenticeships which are normally a 3 year NVQ course and it’s a good idea to have qualifications in maths, science, English, as well as craft based skills and design. You will need to enjoy the outdoor life of course. If you are looking at university courses that will enable you to enter the industry you might want to consider electrical/mechanical engineering as a degree.