The project

Nationwide Platforms has recently provided working at height support for DH Renewables’ Mid Hill Wind Farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The farm hosts 33 wind turbine generators reaching heights of up to 90m and generating 75.9 megawatts of energy per year – enough to power 31,000 households annually. 

The wind turbines needed to undergo maintenance work on the spoke-hubs themselves, which are positioned 80m high on the turbine. 

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The challenge

Work on wind farms requires precision and control to help complete every challenge on time and within budget.

The majority of energy produced by the farm is generated between March and October. This meant that the maintenance work had to be carried out in the winter off-season. However, the Aberdeen winter weather can be formidable. Work therefore had to be completed within a specific time slot and in the presence of potentially difficult environmental conditions. Indeed, December 2023 was as expected: heavy winds blew, and rain and snow fell in heavy volumes throughout the project’s length. The toughest challenge proved to be the dense and heavy fog that settled over the area and persisted for days at a time and significantly reduced visibility, especially higher up where the work was to be performed.

Nationwide Platforms therefore needed to select a machine capable of safely working at an 80m height during intense weather, a machine which could, moreover, navigate the difficult, often snow-covered logging roads that wound through the highlands leading towards the wind farm. 

To operate the machine and perform the work in conditions of strong winds and low visibility, a set of highly skilled operators were needed. Most importantly, to ensure the operator was correctly and safely secured into the machine - all while devoting attention to dextrous work in difficult conditions at 80m heights - game-changing safety technology was required.

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The solution & benefits

First, Nationwide Platforms took a detailed survey of the Mid Hill site, examining the terrain and logging roads, analysing the weather forecasts, and getting measurements for the height of the turbines, as well as the distances between each turbine, in order to calculate exactly when to schedule the maintenance work and determine how long it would take.

Given that the turbine hubs were 80m high, Nationwide Platforms deployed its T90B 90m Bronto Truck from its Specialist Vehicle Fleet. Capable of traversing difficult terrain and able to extend while in operation to calibrate optimal working height and distance, this truck-mounted lift proved a perfect fit for the difficult job. 

Nationwide Platforms’ machines have a tiered ranking system determining which level of operators can use them. The Bronto 90m has the highest working-height of all machines in Nationwide Platforms’ fleet, meaning that it can be controlled only by its Tier 4-level operators, all of whom have racked up hundreds of hours’ experience utilising countless machines in a variety of weather conditions and for a multitude of different tasks. 

Because the Mid Hill Wind Farm project was scheduled over three weeks, a significant amount of maintenance work was needed in a short space of time. In addition, the wind farm itself is located in the remote area of Fetteresso Forest in Stonehaven, which can only be accessed by navigating a lengthy logging road. Both of these factors created time management issues which Nationwide Platforms was swift to overcome. To ensure maximum efficiency, the operators would arrive on site the day before in a 4x4 truck provided by Nationwide Platforms and would stay overnight to begin maintenance promptly the following morning. To ensure the operators could work as safely as possible, within strict regulations and to the best of their ability, Nationwide Platforms introduced a tightly scheduled rota, with the work alternating between operators, so that no single operator was working long hours. Both of these measures together meant that the work could be completed on time and to the highest standards without a single worker being put under undue strain, stress or fatigue.  

Perhaps most important was the use of Nationwide Platforms’ game-changing safety device, Harness ON™. Using intelligent induction technology, Harness ON™ connects a worker’s lanyard carabiner directly into a machine’s control panel, preventing the current from reaching the machine until an operator is securely fastened in. In short, unless the operator is safely secured with their harness clipped in, the machine won’t operate. Through the use of this technology, Nationwide Platforms significantly reduces the risk of falls from height, which has been continually highlighted in IPAF’s Global Safety Report 2023 as the leading cause of incidents when working at height. Importantly, the operators needed only to fasten in, and the rest took care of itself: they could focus diligently upon the job without a hitch. 

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Dan Hall, CEO of DH Renewables said: “It’s vital that we get our maintenance work done during the off-season, but of course this means we’re facing the fairly harsh Aberdeen weather. Nationwide Platforms’ combination of fleet expertise, state of the art safety technology, and careful, planned approach to their projects is something that stood out to us, and gave us confidence that the work would be done efficiently and safely.”

Daniel Cardwell, Specialist Vehicles UK Business Development Manager – Energy & Infrastructure (Onshore Wind) at Nationwide Platforms, added: “Nationwide Platforms’ fleet is being constantly updated to ensure it keeps abreast of the latest developments and maintains the highest quality machinery to support our Onshore Wind Sector up to 90m working height.

“In addition, as part of the wider Loxam Group, we have access to an internationally distributed network of bespoke teams specifically trained in providing work for onshore wind farms. As a result of this, Nationwide Platforms is the only UK company that can provide this service in over 30 countries based across four continents. Supplemented by game-changing safety technology like Harness ON™, we’re well equipped to perform this kind of work across the nation.”

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