A new radio communications system to serve the East of England’s growing offshore wind farm construction industry has won a major grant.
WaveCom, a custom-built two-way radio network to provide coverage along the east coast, is being developed by Fern Communications.
The Lowestoft-based company initially won the contract to provide a system for the Galloper Offshore Wind Farm, located between 34km and 55km off Suffolk. Fern has further developed the concept to design a radio system than can be used by multiple operators and sub-contractors across a wider area.
The project attracted a maximum £50,000 grant from the SCORE scheme, which aims to help companies across England to develop new products, processes and ideas that solve problems and drive efficiency in offshore renewables bringing benefit to the east of England.
Fern managing director Jennifer Cushion said: “Our radio system will provide the east coast offshore renewables industry with huge efficiency savings. Instead of each company and subcontractor having to set up their own radio network, ours will be readily available and fully operational.
“But we could not have done it without the SCORE grant, which is helping us cover the research and development costs, months ahead of income coming on stream.”
The company has specialised in radio communication solutions since it was founded in 2002 by Jennifer and Clive Cushion. Some 70pc of its work is in the energy field where it has experience and expertise.
“There are geographical and technical challenges to providing radio coverage off the east coast. The flat coastal landscape provides few high vantage points to suitably locate antenna at the height needed to give the required offshore coverage,” explained Mrs Cushion. “Challenges relating to the availability of suitable broadband infrastructure also had to be overcome”
“Our aim is to provide seamless radio communications coverage across
ports and harbours, the offshore windfarm sites, transit routes, and back to onshore or offshore marine co-ordination centres. Access to our system will be available to both fixed vessel and hand-portable radios.”
“Our wide-area system, utilising multi-site radio repeaters linked by broadband and satellite, will provide operators and sub-contractors with secure, seamless and uninterrupted radio coverage for existing and future wind farms along the east coast, backed up with multi-level redundancy and secure voice and data logs,” said Mrs Cushion. “We will tailor the system to suite the geographical and technical requirements of each of our customers .”
WaveCom equipment will be rented from Fern Communications as and when required by customers reducing capital expenditure
Fern is now one of the UK’s largest makers and suppliers of portable and networked radio repeaters and recently moved to larger premises to accommodate its expanding workload and staff.
Fern’s radio systems, including repeaters to ensure coverage in difficult, hazardous and inaccessible locations, are also used on oil and gas platforms, LNG tankers, wind and oil support vessels, tunnels and power stations across the world. Fire and rescue workers across the UK, Norway and Taiwan also use Fern equipment.
SCORE project manager Rob Bush said: “This is a great project that delivers savings to wind farm operators through the problem-solving and technological skills of an innovative company. It is exactly the kind of idea we are keen to support.”
So far SCORE has awarded more than £240,000 worth of grants, provided 102 hours of business support and had 44 SMEs engaged in its programme.
Grants are available to start-up and established companies for up to 40% of eligible costs or £50,000, whichever is the lower, with a minimum grant of £2,500.
To find out more about SCORE grants and eligibility, visit http://www.orbisenergy.co.uk/funding-grants/score-grant-funding/
The Supply Chain Innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy (SCORE) programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is open to companies with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than 50 million euros.
The funding is designed to help companies in a wide range of areas, including research and development, collaboration with universities and research bodies, securing patents, acquiring specialist equipment or services and investigating the commercial viability of processes and technologies.
Companies can also access up to 12hrs of subsidised business support from regional enterprise agency Nwes to help grow and develop their business.
The current programme is delivered by OrbisEnergy in partnership with enterprise specialists Nwes, energy industry experts Nautilus Associates and the national Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult centre