National Grid details cable process

From the island to the mainland
Fri, 06/12/2015 - 10:30am
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National Grid representatives Kathryn Cox and George Maximovich visited with New Shoreham officials on Friday, June 5, to discuss the utility’s role in the installation of the Block Island Wind Farm’s transmission cable. The cable will link renewable power into its mainland grid. Components of the project will also be installed on Block Island, in Narragansett and South Kingstown.

Cox and Maximovich met with Deepwater Wind Project Manager Bryan Wilson, Town Manager Nancy Dodge, First Warden Ken Lacoste, Building Official Marc Tillson and Block Island Power Company (BIPCo) co-owners Al Casazza and Cliff McGinnes to present information about the utility’s installation of the $107 million cable portion of the project.

“The goal is to do a lot of work in multiple locations at the same time so we can meet the aggressive timeline,” said Cox, who serves as a Lead Account Manager for National Grid. “We have experience in delivering several renewable projects, and Deepwater Wind has some experience with offshore wind, which is a good combination for delivering a project such as this, the first offshore wind farm in the United States.”

“What I’m hearing is that everything will be happening at the same time,” said Casazza regarding the cable installation process. 

“We would need the wind generator to be online to be able to test the entire system, preferably before connecting BIPCo,” said Cox.

Maximovich stressed the importance of testing the new technology involved with the renewable energy system prior to connecting the cable to BIPCo so that any issues could be resolved.

National Grid is calling its portion of the wind farm project “sea2shore: The Renewable Link.”

Prior to the meeting McGinnes asked Wilson if he liked the title, and Wilson said that he did. “I think it should be from shore to sea,” said McGinnes.

According to a handout presented by National Grid, the installation will include overhead and underground cable lines, including a submarine cable that will be submerged two meters beneath the ocean floor and run through 20 miles of state and federal waters.

“This is a huge project with over $100 million of investment to the transmission infrastructure for mainland Rhode Island, and the Town of New Shoreham,” said Cox. “The cable connects the two. It not only connects Block Island to the wind farm, but the Block Island Power Company to the mainland.”

“Kathryn, the $107 million is not for the wire going out to the (wind) farm,” said McGinnes. “That’s just for the cable to the mainland.” The cable to the wind farm will be financed separately. 

“That’s right,” said Cox. “The components involved (in the $107 million) are the 20-mile submarine cable, a new substation on the island, in addition to upgrades to existing substations in the town of Narragansett. So the communities that will be affected are Block Island, Narragansett and South Kingstown.”

Cox noted that National Grid conducted a similar meeting with the town of Narragansett “a couple of weeks ago.” She said that the construction on the cable part of the project will begin “after the summer period” in the fall of 2015 and continue into the spring of 2016. “I believe the intention is to start generating (energy) late next year,” said Cox.

Maximovich, who serves as National Grid’s Construction Delivery Project Manager, provided the group with details about the utility’s installation process. He said that the submarine cable will be run under water from Fred Benson Town Beach on Block Island to Scarborough Beach in Narragansett.

“We go underground for three miles (from the shoreline) and connect to a new substation at Dillon’s Corner in Narragansett,” said Maximovich. “From that station we go three-quarters of a mile to an existing Wakefield substation in South Kingstown where it will be connected to the National Grid system.”

Maximovich said the cable will go underground, via the directional drilling process, several hundred feet offshore at Scarborough Beach and surface at a manhole cover location on Burnside Avenue (in Narragansett) where it will be routed to the Wakefield substation.

On Block Island the cable will start at the Town Beach and run one mile along Beach Avenue to the new substation on the BIPCo property on Ocean Avenue.

In the meantime, National Grid is gathering information to be fully informed before beginning the installation process.

“Essentially we’re trying to get staff onboard and request information to fill in the gaps from a resource perspective,” said Cox.

Before the meeting began, the attendees shared some stories about their involvement with the project since its inception and collectively seemed astonished that the wind farm was close to becoming a reality.

“Can you believe how fast this has come?” said Cox to Wilson, referring to the start of installation of the cable components. “I know that you’ve been involved with this a lot longer than I have, but I still can’t believe it.”

“Well, there was a sudden acceleration in the last couple of months that’s made it exponentially busier,” said Wilson, who was alluding to the project’s evolution after receiving full financing on March 2. Since then, Deepwater Wind unveiled its new construction facility at Quonset Point on April 27, and signed a deal with Charlie Donadio, Jr.’s Rhode Island Fast Ferry on May 18, to build the crew transfer vessels for the project.

“Do you remember when we met with (Governor Don) Carcieri in Providence, way back when?” said Dodge. 

In 2006, Carcieri announced a plan to utilize renewable energy to generate 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs, of which approximately 15 percent would be derived from wind energy. On Sept. 25, 2008, Carcieri declared the state’s interests in building the nation’s first offshore wind farm.  

After the meeting, the National Grid representatives toured the substation site that will be located on the BIPCo property. They will be returning to the island for an open house to be held at the Community Center on Tuesday, June 23 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.