Scaling up offshore wind without comprising safety
This year, Vestas introduces the first ever Global Safety Day to reinforce our safety culture and continue our safety journey towards zero injuries. During today’s global broadcast for all Vestas employees, Jakob Nielsen, Chairman of G+ Global Offshore Wind Health & Safety Organisation, will join as keynote speaker. This blog post is written jointly by him and Vestas’ Executive Vice President, Tommy Rahbek Nielsen.
Health and safety are front of mind each and every day in our industry, and nowhere more so than in the conversations that take place at Vestas and within G+, the global health and safety organisation for the offshore wind sector. Today, the UN’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work – gives particular pause for thought.
The dramatic growth in offshore wind activity around the world has been a real cause for celebration on our collective journey to net zero. Almost 100 Gigawatts was brought online in 2021 for the second year in a row, 15.2GW of which was from Vestas, and much more is in the pipeline.*
We are seeing incredible engineering achievement in turbine scale and capacity. Vestas’ new 15MW prototype turbine is case in point, but others aren’t far behind. With the world’s largest swept area exceeding 43,000 m2, the V236-15.0 MW delivers industry-leading performance and moves the boundaries of wind energy production to around 80 GWh/year, enough to power around 20,000 European households and save more than 38,000 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent to removing 25,000 passenger cars from the road every year.
So, the outlook for offshore wind is bright. But with this progress comes a responsibility. A responsibility to ensure that as our sector scales up, both in terms of numbers, size and locations of turbines, we do so without compromising the safety of our people. That is the foundation of our industry.
The growth in the wind industry is characterised by change, brought about by new technologies, emerging markets and new players. With this change comes additional cost pressures and increasing demands on our skilled workers.
“I often hear – wrongly in my opinion – that the answer to these pressures lies in increased standardisation. Instead of defining one common denominator, G+ works across the industry to facilitate the exchange of ideas and drive agreement on what is ‘Best Practice’,” says Jakob Nielsen.
From shining a spotlight on industry health and safety performance through to Incident Data reports, from good practice guidelines to ‘Safe by Design’ workshops, G+ works with Vestas and others across the industry to monitor, evaluate and – crucially – learn.
Our industry’s workforce operates in some of the most hazardous conditions, offshore, at height and dealing with the heaviest loads. But our drive to share best practice around safety doesn’t just relate to these physical activities. We need to have support for the mental health, welfare and psychological safety of our workforce at the heart of our operations too.
“One of our focus areas addressing the risks we see across the supply chain, is closer collaboration with our contractors and partners across the supply chain – both in transport, construction, service and manufacturing,” Tommy Rahbek Nielsen explains. He continues: “This year we will also implement a new Incident Management System that will enable improvements with data insight and safe behaviour.”
Our industry has a shared purpose to bring sustainable energy solutions to power a brighter future. Together we can make our footprint work smarter when demand fluctuates significantly.
As new markets get activated and new projects arise, industry players must collaborate more, leveraging the expertise of other partners where it’s needed. This will also benefit safety across the industry, aiding the knowledge transfer so crucial to ensure that lessons are learned.
If we get this right, we will ensure that our industry continues to attract and retain the best and brightest workers. Hundreds of thousands are employed in the global offshore wind industry. Both G+ and Vestas are playing our part in making sure they go home safe.
*Source: GWEC's Global Wind Report 2021