Safer, smoother offshore wind farm construction with lightning activity monitoring

Offshore wind farm
Hans Loewenheath
Product Manager, Lightning
Weather & Environment

The continued growth of offshore wind power has led to high demand of wind turbine installation vessels (WTIV). With vessels in high demand, WTIV operators need to maximize operational uptime even when the weather is harsh. The safety and efficiency of these vessels is critical, and threats from thunderstorms like lightning should be monitored in real time to help achieve this.

Most importantly, lightning poses a human safety risk to personnel working on wind turbine installation vessels, as lightning carries thousands of times more electricity than household electricity. Thunderstorms bring even more risk to these vessels such as strong winds and high seas. Helicopter transport of people and cargo are critical in the construction phase, but thunderstorms can make helicopter activity extremely dangerous. All of these threats from lightning and thunderstorms can impact safety and reduce the efficiency of WTIV operations by delaying installations, increasing total construction costs.

You can detect lightning literally anywhere in the world with a global lightning detection network like Vaisala Global Lightning Dataset GLD360, and Vaisala Thunderstorm Manager software makes monitoring GLD360 lightning activity in real time a breeze. With this real-time lightning data, there is no need for the installation and maintenance of separate single point lightning detection sensors on the vessel, which further increases accuracy and reliability of the data. Vaisala can help your organization manage these threats, whether your vessels are installing a wind turbine offshore, traveling between sites, or picking up supplies at the port.

As you can imagine, lightning does not occur evenly across the world, but many offshore wind parks are located and being built in areas which not only have more wind but also convective activity and thunderstorms. Much of the offshore wind power generation in the Unites States today (plus planned projects) takes place off the east coast of the U.S., like the 82 turbines off the coast of Maryland as mentioned in this article. Looking at this interactive lightning map with the density contour layer enabled, the ocean areas off the east coast show higher lightning rates than other ocean areas.

Total lightning density


Momentum Wind project

These images show the total lightning density (source) near the Momentum Wind project that is in the early planning phase (source).

The locations of the planned Momentum Wind project pictured above see an average of 12 lightning events per square kilometer per year. This may not seem like a lot, but tall metal objects like the cranes on a WTIV in a thunderstorm are still dangerous and can impact personnel safety, so lightning activity awareness is important.

To learn more about how monitoring lightning and hazardous winds can help wind turbine installation vessels improve the safety and efficiency of operations and reduce total construction costs, register here for our upcoming webinar on September 8, Optimizing offshore wind farm construction and maintenance operations with more accurate weather awareness insight.