How innovative rope products are transforming offshore wind farm construction

Bridon International, the global technology leader in wire and fibre ropes for demanding applications, is using innovation to transform offshore wind farm construction.

In October 2012, Bridon supported RWE, one of Europe’s leading energy companies, in installing one of the UK’s newest and largest offshore wind farms 18 miles off the coast of North Wales.

In the offshore wind farm construction sector, safety is paramount and regulations are stringent. Typically, wind farm installation has been conducted using generic steel rope products, but demand has been growing for industry-specific rope solutions, in particular rope products which can match or boost typical support capabilities whilst reducing the potential for damaging delicate components (such as turbines) and structures (such as blades).

In order to achieve these objectives, Bridon suggested that RWE employ its Steelite Xtra High Modulus Polyethylene fibre rope slings, which boast equivalent working load limits to commonly utilised rope technology at a fraction of the weight. Bridon manufactured and supplied 65 of these ropes for the installation, the largest of which has a 600 tonne safe working load capacity. The slings were manufactured at Bridon International’s Coatbridge facility.

Key to the success of Bridon’s Steelite range is its use of Dyneema fibre. The strength to weight ratio of Dyneema fibre allows Bridon to manufacture lighter, more malleable ropes without compromising on durability. This enables Bridon to offer a range of rope solutions which, for this application, surpass both traditional steel wire and conventional synthetic fibre products.

Steelite ropes can be up to 15 times stronger than steel equivalents, but are 7 times lighter and weightless in water, yielding considerable operational efficiencies in offshore wind farm construction. For example, eight men are required to handle steel slings, whilst four men are required to handle Steelite slings. The weight of Steelite ropes also means that the time and resources necessary to maintain auxiliary equipment (such as forklift trucks), can be significantly reduced.

Deploying Steelite ropes for offshore wind farms is also a much quicker and easier process, with the risk of impairment to fragile components minimised, assembly times reduced and the lifting capacity of installational barges increased. Steelite ropes also boast protective, abrasion-resistant sleeves, which mean they need to be replaced far less frequently. Since employing Steelite ropes, RWE has witnessed corrective maintenance costs usually associated with wind farm construction disappear almost entirely.

The UK’s use of wind energy is set to dramatically increase over the next few years as part of the Government’s renewable targets, and Bridon International is seeking to consolidate its position as the world’s leading supplier of sling synthetics.  The firm has already received production enquiries from a number of major multinational wind farm constructors, and is planning a production schedule that will cater to the highest possible levels of demand.

Jon Templeman, Chief Executive of Bridon International, said:

“The fibre constructions used in Bridon’s Steelite ropes mean they are both stronger and lighter than their conventional steel equivalents – making them easier to work with, reducing the need for regular replacement, and ensuring the highest possible levels of performance.

“Bridon prides itself on collaborating with customers to find innovative solutions to the challenges they face, and that’s what makes us the global technology leader in manufacturing ropes for demanding applications”.