Fern Communications founders Clive and Jennifer Cushion with technical manager James Cleverley and the company’s radio repeater equipment (photo: TMS Media)
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 34 and 55 kilometres 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 GBP 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 says, “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.”
“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,” explains 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,” says Cushion. “We will tailor the system to suite the geographical and technical requirements of each of our customers.”
SCORE project manager Rob Bush says, “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 GBP 240,000 worth of grants, provided 102 hours of business support and had 44 SMEs engaged in its programme.