Offshore projects carry risks
As the cost of wind power production is decreasing rapidly, the competition is also increasing. While state-sponsored funding is declining, the industry is growing. Simultaneously, the technologies involved are pushing ahead as well. Turbines are getting bigger, and overall wind energy is becoming a powerful force in the energy mix. As more and more projects head out to sea, it is important to consider the risks involved.
The construction and erection phases of offshore wind projects face multiple risks. When undertaking a complex project in a harsh environment, the exposure to unexpected risks is high and if something goes wrong the possible impacts are both severe and expensive. From worker safety, to the reliable supply and transportation of materials, to the installation of cables on the sea bed, as well as the maintenance and care of these installations carry many risks.
Generally, working with wind turbines already carries certain risks, including working in a confined space and at great heights, both onshore and offshore. However, offshore projects face increased hazards from powerful winds and stormy weather, posing a threat to both personnel and equipment. Even a small task in an offshore environment carries higher risks in comparison to onshore execution of the same task.
Risks for personnel
For personnel, risks include exposure to noise, appropriate safety equipment including ear protection is critical to reduce the risk of hearing loss. Slips, trips and falls are a serious risk when conducting operations at sea, slippery surfaces and working at height are just some of the immediate points of consideration for staff working in an offshore setting.
Risks in transportation
Another risk lies in transportation to and from the work site. Whether travelling to the location by ship or helicopter, employees must be trained and wear the appropriate gear when facing the hazardous conditions during their journey to work and when returning to shore. Perhaps the most significant risk is access to medical treatment when things go wrong. All personnel must be trained to support first aid as the nearest hospital services are onshore and will take considerable amounts of time to reach if there is an emergency.
Risks in equipment
There are also significant risks when it comes to the equipment itself. As Mikko Etelämäki, Complex & International Claims at If P&C Insurance notes, “When installing a windfarm, the risk of losing a single wind turbine is not a major concern. The real risk lies in losing power altogether when there is a fault in the subsea cabling which has been laid on the sea floor. One bad subsea cable can knock out the entire farm from production.”
“Wind energy is a global trend, which continues to grow,” says Pekka Miettinen, Chief Underwriter, CAR/EAR, Property at If P&C Insurance.
“Today, wind and solar have reached the point where they just make good business sense. These projects are profitable and less dependent on government support. In the end, we are talking about providing a cleaner, greener energy future for Europe and the world, at an affordable price to the consumer. Offshore projects pose significant challenges and many of these risks can be assigned to an insurer. Having Project Insurance will add an extra level of protection to the investor’s project and any ensuing financial losses resulting from possible damages.”