Deepwater CEO 'confident'

All elements on track
Fri, 02/26/2016 - 11:45am
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October, November or December — but not before.

That's when the Block Island Wind Farm will be operational, according to Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski. He said the nation’s first offshore wind farm is on schedule but that it was "too far out to pinpoint" a more exact date for going live.

During an interview with The Block Island Times on Tuesday, Feb. 23, Grybowski said of the project, "We’re very confident. The big components are all on track.” 

Before the turbines go online, there will be "a fair amount of work that happens," said Grybowski. “There’s a lot of testing” that will be done to ensure that each of the wind turbines is working properly. Grybowski noted that there are “very specific protocols” in place for testing the wind farm. “The manufacturer wants to test the machine, so it’s working the way that it’s supposed to work under our contract. And there are requirements that we have to meet to show the grid operator in New England that the wind turbines are integrating with the electric grid the right way. There’s a very long list of steps that we have to go through to prove to everyone that things are working properly. Those steps are done when they’re done."

When asked who has the final authority to say "go" after all the testing is complete, Grybowski said "ultimately it’s up to us when to start the wind farm."

In the meantime, Deepwater Wind and National Grid are focused on the installation of the cable transmission system.

“The next big offshore piece will be in April when we starting laying the submarine cable,” said Grybowski. “The cable is the next big chunk. Getting the cable here, putting it on the barge, and then starting the offshore work in April.”

Representatives from Deepwater Wind and National Grid noted that the cable associated with the wind farm has been fabricated by LS Cable in South Korea. The cargo ship BBC Ruby is currently en route with all of the cable (see related story) and the vessel responsible for installing it under the sea floor, the Big Max, is being equipped at the Specialty Diving Services facility in Quonset Point, where Deepwater Wind kicked off construction of the project on April 27, 2015. Big Max is a 250-foot by 75-foot barge that will install 26 miles of cable about six feet under the seabed. 

“One of the exciting things is that all of the cable for the project left Korea on Feb. 15 on a transport vessel and is on its way to Rhode Island,” said Grybowski, who noted that the cable would arrive around the end of March. “The fabrication of the cable is complete. It went through a variety of tests that were witnessed by National Grid and Deepwater Wind. So, it’s on its way.” 

Grybowski said it was "an enormous step for the cable to be fabricated. And it’s a very delicate process to move that cable from the factory onto the vessel." The 20-mile long transmission cable weighs 4.9 million pounds.

As far as wind farm construction activity, Deepwater Wind is presently assembling the five wind turbine towers at a Port of Providence facility that will be placed atop the steel foundations by the Fred Olsen Windcarrier during this summer’s installation activity at the offshore work site.

“The towers are undergoing final assembly. Each tower installation has three tower sections,” said Grybowski. “They are all assembled to complete one tower. Right now they’re being outfitted with the electrical and mechanical components that run the individual turbines.”

Grybowski acknowledged that building the nation’s first offshore wind farm is “a complicated project to manage. But it is par for the course for a big, complex energy project. There are a lot of contractors and subcontractors involved. So, it requires a tremendous amount of coordination among all of the parties.”

Grybowski said that Deepwater Wind's endeavor to construct the Block Island Wind Farm has garnered attention from all around the globe.

“We are the highest profile 30-megawatt wind farm project in the world,” said Grybowski. “I think this project, certainly in the global energy business, has received a tremendous amount of attention by virtue of being the first in the United States. We are getting a very high level of attention…”

Deepwater Wind presented the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) with a project assessment and overview on Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Providence. At that meeting, Deepwater Wind noted that there have been 571,107 man-hours expended on the project, with a “perfect environmental compliance record,” and “no serious injuries.”

Grybowski will be attending and speaking at the U.S. Offshore Wind Leadership Conference in Boston Monday, Feb. 29. For information about the conference go to: www.usoffshorewindconference.com.