The demand for renewable energy has risen in recent years as the climate and cost-of-living crises see expensive, unsustainable fossil fuels traded in for a better, more sustainable solution.

Decommissioning of offshore oil platforms has ramped up significantly as the global transition away from traditional energy sources picks up speed — with around 10% of the North Sea currently in the decommissioning phase — and offshore wind farms are now popping up in their place.

The benefits of offshore wind

The UK has been the global leader in offshore wind since 2008 and has invested in a number of offshore wind initiatives to ensure the country can source a third of its electricity via wind by 2030.

An impressive £60 million was put towards floating offshore wind earlier this year, and the largest wind farm in the world, Hornsea Two, also entered development. Wind power typically produces less than 1% of the carbon dioxide emitted by traditional power plants, and this site has an extremely low carbon footprint, powering well over 1.4 million homes with clean energy.

The development of new offshore wind farms, such as Hornsea, can also positively impact nearby communities, generating job opportunities across the supply chain and bolstering local economies. Take Berwick Bank as an example, which could create 9,300 new jobs and contribute £8.3 billion to the UK economy.

Offshore wind farms also boast a series of advantages over their onshore counterparts. They do not take up valuable space — one of the biggest drawbacks of onshore wind — or require land to be levelled or trees to be cut down, which has caused habitat loss and bird displacement. Whilst the impact of offshore wind farms on marine life is still being considered, it seems disruption could be mostly temporary and localised.

However, as with any offshore site, wind farms are not without safety risks — and steps must be taken to ensure vessels are not put in danger when navigating nearby waters.

Keeping collisions at bay as traffic mounts

To ensure that ships do not enter dangerous territory around offshore wind farms, marine aids to navigation (AtoN) must be used to signify safe lines of passage.

It is especially important to consider the use of AtoN during the setting up and tearing down phases when equipment can be hidden underwater, but they must also be prioritised throughout the lifetime of the farm when heightened activity could ramp up traffic — increasing the risk of collision.

Large buoys like the Mobilis JET 9000 offer important visibility in deepwater locations thanks to a highly stable focal plane of up to six metres. The navigation buoy’s numerous mooring configurations are also helpful for projects in high-current waters, ensuring a safe swing radius is maintained despite challenging sea conditions.

In places where winds are particularly fierce, as is the case for many wind farms being set up in the North Sea, buoyancy is another critical consideration. The JET 9000 also comes with a three-metre diameter hull that provides up to 9,000 kilograms of buoyancy, ensuring the aid stays afloat even during the toughest conditions.

When considering navigation lighting, maintenance-free, solar-powered models like the Sabik LED 160 are ideal for inaccessible offshore locations. Equipped with rugged injection-moulded aluminium housing for added resilience against damage caused by harsh waters, this high-performance, LED-powered omnidirectional beacon light provides bright, efficient and durable lighting in even the most challenging conditions.

Hydrosphere is the UK’s leading supplier of marine aids to navigation and has a selection of solutions — including navigation buoys and navigation lights — suitable for oil platforms and offshore wind farms during the construction, operational and decommissioning phases. Contact us at +44 (0)1420 520374 or email to find out how we can help with your next project.