United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Rhyl Flats: meeting the O&M challenge

What can be learned from the experience of Siemens and RWE npower renewables' joint effort of setting up and running Rhyl Flats offshore wind farm? Collaborative working to optimise operations and maintenance has certainly borne fruit

orward planning of maintenance work and staff training has proved beneficial
orward planning of maintenance work and staff training has proved beneficial

Rhyl Flats offshore wind farm is the second and currently the largest operating offshore wind farm in the RWE npower renewables’ (RWE NRL) energy portfolio. The project is located on the eastern end of the Constable Bank between Abergele and Rhos-on-Sea, approximately 8 kilometres off the north Wales coast. It uses 25 3.6MW Siemens wind turbines and has a maximum installed capacity of 90MW. Siemens also provides the operations and maintenance service.
Rhyl Flats was constructed throughout 2008 and 2009, and first generated energy on 15 July 2009. It became fully operational in December 2009 and provides enough green electricity to satisfy the needs of approximately 61,000 homes every year.
Windpower Offshore asked Siemens Service Renewables  UK what could be learned from the Rhyl Flats experience.

Q What are Rhyl Flats’ greatest O&M challenges?
A There have been no major O&M challenges over and above the usual ones that are faced by all offshore wind farms as a result of the environment, namely marine logistics and weather. Siemens has worked closely with RWE NRL to identify solutions to help optimise the productivity of the wind farm. These measures include:
    Improving shore-based facilities for marine transport and logistics
    Refining offshore logistics equipment, such as a floating pontoon and transition piece access equipment
    Staff training
    Planning of maintenance work.  
Siemens has applied the experience learned on other wind farms, such as site management best practice. The 3.6MW turbine is a reliable, tried-and-tested product, and as a result we have not faced any unusual challenges.

Q How do you approach the project’s O&M requirements?
AFrom the start we have worked together as a team. Siemens has adapted its approach to meet the specific needs of RWE NRL and worked closely with the RWE NRL team to understand operating parameters and proactively adjust work planning.
In 2010 we worked together on a retrofit programme for the 3.6MW turbines. This was planned and executed to minimise disruption ‚ including forward planning of the use of specialist vessels, which allowed technicians to be accommodated in the field and react to changing weather conditions, using a specialist access system. By facilitating an increase in the work access window, this reduced the number of days lost to the weather.

Q At Rhyl Flats, what have been the O&M areas requiring the most attention?
A Rhyl Flats, like other offshore wind farms, is a challenging environment because of weather and wave conditions. Our continued joint efforts are focusing on solutions to improve accessibility.
One area we did address specifically was the need for documentation and reporting standards to meet RWE NRL’s requirements. Once we understood their specific reporting requirements — and having fully realised how important this aspect of our service operations was to them — we took the necessary steps to refine and speed up the process, which is now working very well

Q On the back of the experience so far, is there anything you would do differently?
A From the start we worked closely together in a spirit of full collaboration. We implemented lessons learned from previous offshore developments in areas such as roles and responsibilities, and the shore-based operational facilities. On contract signature, we worked very closely with RWE NRL on the layout and design of the offices and warehouse area to optimise service activity. We defined these early on in Rhyl to good effect.
"Looking back, we could have addressed RWE NRL’s reporting requirements faster and also moved more quickly to the current partnership arrangement, which works well now," says Richard Luijendijk, director of Siemens Service Renewables UK. "However, I am pleased that we did implement lessons learned from other wind farms to improve operating efficiency and output at Rhyl Flats."

Q Are you planning to introduce any innovative O&M procedures at this project?
A Siemens and RWE NRL are keen to make use of best practice and lessons learned from other projects. Rhyl Flats is a high-performing site and we will look to use some of the best practice from this site on, for example, the nearby Gwynt-y-Môr project, where foundation installation work is under way and turbine installation is due to start in the second quarter of 2013.  
Together with RWE NRL, we will look at synergy benefits in the North Wales area. With the imminent start of turbine installation at Gwynt-y-Môr there is a great opportunity for a joint O&M base at the Port of Mostyn, sharing logistics and planning for all RWE NRL’s offshore assets in Liverpool Bay.
We will continue to look at ways to improve efficiency through product enhancements and upgrades, such as the V3 Power Curve Upgrade, Siemens’ proprietary system that enhances the productivity of installed turbines as an alternative to replacement.

Q Rhyl Flats is considered a success story. What do you think were the key factors in its O&M operations that made this possible?
A "Key to the success of Rhyl Flats has been the nature of the relationship between Siemens and RWE NRL," says Luijendijk. From the start there has been an open dialogue and commitment to working together to find the best solution, whether in set-up, facility, manning or work planning. "We have had strong site management and a small and focused project team," he says.
Ben Furlong, offshore portfolio manager at RWE NRL, is also pleased with the performance of Rhyl Flats to date. "It reflects the accumulated result of the decisions made and the works undertaken, from development through construction and into operation," he says. "The attitude of the local team including RWE NRL, Siemens and third-party contractors is excellent, and is a key factor in the strong health and safety and plant performance to date. Maintaining this performance at Rhyl Flats and extending it to Gwynt-y-Môr wind farm as it comes into operation is our next challenge."

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