Wind Farm to power Block Island by April

Fri, 12/30/2016 - 10:00am
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Block Island Power Company Transition Team Chair Barbara MacMullan told The Block Island Times on Wednesday, Dec. 28 that the island is expected to receive power from the Block Island Wind Farm on April 1. Echoing that sentiment was fellow Transition Team member and New Shoreham Second Warden Norris Pike, who said, “We anticipate being live by April 1.” MacMullan said there is the possibility the island may start receiving power from the wind farm some time in March.

MacMullan noted that although the Wind Farm became operational on Dec. 12 and is delivering power to the mainland electrical grid, it is not yet connected to BIPCo’s infrastructure and is incapable of sending energy to Block Island. MacMullan said installation of the interconnection between BIPCo and National Grid’s substation is underway, and is expected to be completed some time in March of 2017. (There was a pre-planned power outage on Wednesday, Dec. 28, to test the interconnectivity process.)

David Graves, Media Relations director for National Grid, confirmed the late March, early April timeline. “We expect the connection to be complete by the end of March,” he said. 

MacMullan said that if the interconnection is finished in March, then the BIPCo Transition Team would like to have the diesel generators turned off, and for the island to receive power directly from the wind farm. “That’s the goal,” she said. “We want to turn off the diesel as soon as possible.”

MacMullan explained that if the island is receiving wind generated power in March, a fuel charge line item will be included on ratepayers’ bills for the amount of diesel that was used for the period prior to receiving energy from the wind farm. “If we receive power on April 1 the (diesel) fuel charge [on the bill for the month of April] will be zero,” she said. Although March would be the last time island ratepayers see a diesel fuel charge, a power purchase charge of about 13 cents per month will be added to the monthly power bill of the island's ratepayers.

“It’s very exciting” to be on the cusp of receiving energy from the nation’s first offshore wind farm, remarked MacMullan, who noted that she has been working on the project for the past eight years. “We’re one of a kind. And this is a first of its kind.”

As for how much energy the wind farm will produce, according to Graves, its peak output capacity is 30 megawatts of electricity per day. That output fluctuates based on wind conditions. Block Island’s daily demand in the winter is about 1 megawatt, and 3 to 4 megawatts in the summer.

Graves said that the excess energy that is generated by the wind farm will be re-directed to mainland Rhode Island via National Grid’s 20-mile long submarine cable transmission system. In times of need, if the wind farm isn’t generating energy, Block Island can receive power from the mainland grid.

Per its agreement, National Grid has an obligation to purchase 100 percent of the wind farm’s energy output, noted Graves.

The wind farm is operating without turbine number two, which is undergoing repairs after a drill bit left inside its generator caused some damage. Deepwater Wind representatives said that they expect the turbine to be back in operation in the next 45 days, adding that it will be routine for one of the wind farm’s five turbines to be taken offline periodically for maintenance and repairs. Four turbines will supply enough energy to the mainland grid, and to power the needs of Block Island, according to Deepwater Wind.