Global efforts to improve wind energy safety

Wind energy is a hot industry today. According to a scientific study “Geophysical limits to global wind power” by Nature Climate Change released a few days ago, the Earth’s winds contain so much energy that they have a potential to be “a primary source of near-zero-emission electric power as the global economy continues to grow through the twenty-first century.”

As wind energy adoption grows, it’s crucial to consider safety, which “must always be the number one priority above energy production,” states the Wind Energy Update. That is why it is great news that there are efforts undertaken to improve wind industry safety in Europe and North America.

Especially as OSHA gears up for greater involvement…

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) revealed that the total installed global wind power capacity by the end of 2011 was 238 GW. Of that amount, the EU attributed to 94 GW, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). Moreover, “the European Commission expects wind energy to be the leading electricity generating technology by 2050, providing 32% to 49% of Europe’s electricity.”

It’s important to remember that with increasing construction and installation of wind farms, the amount of offshore work will rise. And as stated by Wind Energy Update: “When accessing the offshore wind turbines, being as safe and time efficient is imperative for all engineers going offsite. Until the decommissioning of the wind farms, which could be 20 years or more, health and safety must be kept at the front of the operator’s agenda. It must be put above energy production.”

This may be one of the reasons the Wind Energy Update’s second annual Offshore Wind Health and Safety Summit 2012 in Copenhagen sees growing attention and attendance. The event is currently 534% up on last year. The experienced health and safety industry professionals will speak on the most crucial offshore wind safety issues and address safety culture, training, access options, and more.

In North America too, steps are also being taken to improve wind energy safety. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a Wind Response Team, with a goal to respond to incidents occurring in the wind power industry. And recently the team received training, in cooperation with Suzlon Wind Energy Corp. and the American Wind Energy Association.

This training taught OSHA safety specialists to conduct work at heights (such as climbing, rescue, self-descent and fall arrest), permit-required confined-space entry, and energy isolation (lockout/tag-out procedure). It also included such topics as safety during wind farm construction, daily activities of a wind turbine technician and provided a trip to a nearby wind farm.

What safety issues do you think will be most important to address as the wind energy industry grows?

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