Offshore Wind Industry in Need of Health and Safety Standards?

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With the rapid growth of the wind power industry in recent years, and the expected continued expansion to meet EU targets by 2050, the sector is in danger of suffering a skills shortage throughout the various types of employment within the industry.

The EWEA’s wind at work report of 2009 concluded that on average 15.1 jobs for a year are created in the EU for every MW of power installed per year, and 0.4 long term jobs are created per MW of cumulative capacity in operations and maintenance and other activities. The EWEA data from 2007 showed that 108,000 people were employed in the wind industry throughout the EU; 37% of which were employed by wind turbine manufacturers and 22% by component suppliers. The report also estimated that a further 42,000 people were employed indirectly as a result of the wind energy industry; making it responsible for 150,000 jobs in total. That figure is expected to double by 2020, based on estimates of a total of 180GW of installed wind power, and half of those jobs are expected to be based offshore.

RenewableUK (formerly the BWEA) studies in 2008 showed that 5,000 people were employed in the UK in the wind power industry. With an expected increase to 34GW of installed power by 2020, the employment figure is estimated to rise to 57,000. Among the professions to be singled out as being in danger of a shortage were health and safety specialists.

There are several key factors to consider in the training and development of employees to work on offshore wind farms. There is already clear lack of skilled workers, and in particular health and safety officials; this must be addressed by the wind energy industry, and training requirements should be set out on an industry-wide basis in order to quickly fill the gap. The offshore wind power industry is still a relatively immature industry and data relating to health and safety offshore is limited; simply due to our limited experience of offshore wind farms in deep water. It must be an ongoing and fluid process to develop the safety standards for offshore installations, and therefore the health and safety training for staff. Cooperation needs to continue between the industry’s main players in terms of sharing information about the challenges and incidents they experience in practice. This will allow the necessary standards to be introduced, and in turn training can be developed to create a knowledgeable and skilled workforce for the future.

Article by IQPC is a leading organizer of about 2,000 worldwide conferences, seminars, and related learning programs every year. The company is organizing the Health & Safety in Offshore Wind Conference from 12 – 14 December, 2011 at the Swissôtel Bremen, Germany. Free whitepapers, articles and podcasts on health and safety in offshore wind are available on the website.

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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