Historic moment may be quiet event

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 11:15am
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After National Grid wrapped up cable reburial work at the Town Beach ahead of schedule, the focus is now on the Block Island Power Company, which will be officially taking receipt of wind-generated energy from the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm on May 1. While officials from Deepwater Wind and National Grid have no plans for hosting a ceremony to commemorate the event, BIPCo Interim President Jeffery Wright told The Block Island Times that the power company is finalizing plans for a ceremony. 

When asked about Deepwater Wind hosting an event, spokesperson Meaghan Wims told The Times that, “No ceremony is planned. I’ll leave it up to (National) Grid to comment… Nothing to add on our end.” National Grid did not respond by press time.

Early completion of National Grid’s cable work at the beach was a pleasant surprise to Wright, who entertained the possibility of moving up the May 1 start date. However, after Wright looked into making that happen, he determined that a schedule shift by BIPCo would not be possible. 

“I worked through an earlier cut-over with our power supply team,” said Wright, “and they do not believe moving the date up is feasible. At this point we are required to wait until May 1. It’s too bad,” he said. Wright told The Times that an early cut-over might have provided $1,000 to $1,500 per day in savings on diesel fuel required to run the generators, part of which would have been passed along to the island’s ratepayers. 

National Grid Engineer David Campilii explained that National Grid’s expediency with its cable reburial work was the reason for the company’s early departure from the beach. “The work to add the cable protectors (took) about 6 days,” he said. “The original plan had installation taking as long as three weeks. Originally, we thought all the work would have to be done by divers on a barge, a slow process, but we were able to do all the work with the excavators on the beach. A much faster process.”

National Grid’s cable work, which began on Sunday, March 26 and ended on Friday, March 31, involved deactivating the sea2shore cable and addressing its shallow burial depth for an 80-foot stretch, 200-feet off the Town Beach. During the work, National Grid utilized two excavators to unearth the undersea cable and applied a protective plastic sleeve around it in four-foot sections that link together. 

Campilii said that the excavators “dug a trench on either side of the cable,” clearing away sand from atop the cable, and “once it was exposed,” the protective sleeves were installed. Per a spec sheet provided by National Grid, the protective sleeve is comprised of marine grade polyurethane, about one inch thick, has a lifespan of 25 years, and is designed to prevent abrasion due to the rough seabed and storm activity.

“It’s a standard device used for cable protection,” said Campilii, noting that National Grid is working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Coastal Resources Management Council in addressing the issue. The CRMC has required that National Grid perform cable depth monitoring at the beach throughout the year.  

Campilii said, “The cable was out of service,” deactivated, which means no energy was running through it, while National Grid performed the installation at the Town Beach. The cable was reactivated on Saturday, after National Grid completed its work.

During the work, National Grid discovered that there were “lots of boulders” where the cable was installed at the beach. “We dug some of them out,” said Campilii, “but it would be a large excavation effort to pull them all out and rebury the cable.” Campilii did note that the minor excavation did cause the cable to be reburied at a slightly greater depth than it was originally installed.

As for the results from the electromagnetic field survey that National Grid performed at the Town Beach on Feb. 28, Campilii said, “There were no surprises,” although the company is still analyzing the data prior to approval from the state’s agencies. Campilii also said that if any of the data denoted issues the company would have to explore options for addressing it. (He noted that the protective sleeve will not prevent EMF emissions.)

Despite that, Campilii said that he believes that the levels are safe for marine life, and people. “You’re exposed to magnetic fields in your everyday life with the appliances you use,” he said. “We expect the (magnetic) field to be at, or below, the permitted levels when the line was energized.”

“We’re glad physical construction (involving the cable) is done, and we can put the transmission system back in service,” said Campilii. Wright said that Block Island, and its ratepayers, will soon be receiving quiet and clean renewable energy produced by the wind farm.