ANT Telecom recently exhibited at this year’s All-Energy conference in Glasgow, which had strong attendance, both in terms of suppliers and delegates from the wind energy supply chain.
At ANT Telecom, we offer an extensive range of communication solutions and consultancy advice for all renewable energy providers. Our particular experience of working with clients in remote locations, combined with the discussions at All-Energy 2015, have prompted us to consider the unique communication requirements of wind farms and the challenges faced by operators when ensuring the health and safety of not only their staff, but contractors and legislative professionals working in these environments.
It’s the sole responsibility of a wind farm operator to ensure that all individuals are accounted for; that they know when people enter a wind farm; where they are located whilst there; and when they leave. But this can be a difficult task given the environment wind farms are in, to say the least. It is therefore imperative to consider the importance of having an effective, fit-for-purpose communications system that provides the right cover for all workers and visitors.
To date there are 6,121 wind turbines here in the UK* and they are usually in remote locations, which can bring a number of issues for those working on them in isolation. From our experience, staff often work in pairs and have manual, paper based procedures in place to record who is on-site and where they are working.
When it comes to the challenges on a wind farm, if a worker is injured or rendered unconscious, there must be a process in place that makes sure they get the help they need quickly. In addition, if a worker is out working on a turbine and discovers additional work, not covered by their original work-order-form, they must get the required permission before they do the additional work – even if it means driving back to the control room. Furthermore, in adverse weather conditions, a wind farm can also be forced to close down, and in these circumstances, it can be difficult to notify those already working on the wind farm and those who may need to access the wind farm, if there is no clear communication policy or devices in place.
A robust radio-based communications solution that provides site-wide coverage can help to guarantee the health and safety of remote workers and contractors maintaining wind farms, whilst also increasing the efficiency and speed of the maintenance process.
When it comes to communication systems and lone worker solutions, ANT Telecom believes that a one product fit all approach doesn’t always provide the customer with the best solution, which is why we offer a consultancy service. We prefer to visit a site and see how an organisation operates, understands staff processes and what infrastructure or technology exists.
We then design our solutions selecting the best of breed products (from our partners) that best fits our customers’ requirements based on our analysis and experience. For example, some sites have GSM coverage so we can use this and simply make it work smarter for the organisation and we can turn a worker’s personal or work smartphone into a lone worker device. Other wind farms may have no GSM coverage but have installed data and voice networks between the control rooms of each wind farm. In this scenario we would install the necessary equipment to provide site–wide communication across the wind farm, but integrate this with the existing data network to provide inter-site connectivity. This would allow staff across the sites to talk to each other seamlessly.
If you would like to discuss the communication challenges your wind farm has, review your lone worker communication system or talk about the lone worker solutions available for your organisation, visit our lone worker solutions page or call one of our team on 01494 833123.