B.I. Wind Farm project sees first on-island activity
Despite some unexpected events, such as repairs to a foundation and a complaint that was filed in a Providence U.S. District Court, the Block Island Wind Farm project is moving ahead, according to Deepwater Wind's Chief Executive Officer.
On Monday, Aug. 17, National Grid set up shop at the Block Island Town Beach where it conducted geotechnical survey work relevant to installing and connecting the submarine cable to the land-based cable on Block Island. At the same time, Deepwater Wind has been busy with the foundation installation process.
“Foundation installation work is on-track and will continue as scheduled throughout the summer,” said Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind. “The second jacket foundation was installed this past weekend.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 11, the first foundation that was placed in the water on July 26, one day prior to celebrating the “steel in the water” ribbon cutting ceremony, was removed for “inspection” and “repairs.” Grybowski said that, “We do not expect the repair and reinstallation to impact our overall project schedule.”
To install the foundations at their precise locations approximately three miles off the southeast coast of Block Island, Deepwater Wind employed T. Baker Smith, a Louisiana surveying company experienced with installing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The company utilizes an RTK (Real Time Kinematic) system that receives GPS (Global Positioning System) location data, which is then transmitted to offshore technicians to coordinate the accuracy of the foundation installation process.
“Our installation contractor is using GPS-based equipment to position the jackets on the seafloor,” said Grybowski.
At his lecture at the Block Island Maritime Institute on Tuesday, Aug. 4, Deepwater Wind Project Manager Bryan Wilson noted that offshore wind is cleaner than land based wind. He also stated that the wind zone where the Block Island Wind Farm will be situated is an ideal locale for harnessing offshore wind energy.
“The wind resource off the Northeast coast is world class — one of the strongest in the United States,” said Grybowski. “In general, offshore winds are both stronger and more consistent than onshore wind resources in the region, because there are no topographic features, like mountains, that would impede the wind flow.”
The wind turbine blades that will be capturing the wind gusts off Block Island will be 240 feet in length and are manufactured by Alstom, a power generation company based in France.
“The Block Island Wind Farm turbine generators were designed by Alstom to operate in a maritime environment,” said Grybowski. “Many components are... protected against exposure to salt water and air.”
The five wind turbines for the Block Island Wind Farm will be affixed atop their respective foundations and erected in the summer of 2016. Deepwater Wind has stated that the wind farm will be operational in the fall of 2016.
At the Town Beach on Monday, Aug. 17, the first signs of the cable installation that are part of the wind farm project were seen. National Grid, which will own and operate the $107 million cable, began geological surveys at the beach. National Grid said that the surveys required collection of two soil samples on the beach and one in the adjacent parking lot within close proximity to the Fred Benson Beach Pavilion.
“Two test borings are being done on the beach and one in the adjacent parking lot to gather information in determining the best route for the cable to follow as it comes ashore,” said David Graves, media relations representative for National Grid. “The tests should be completed in the next week or two. Actual site preparation won’t be done until the cable is brought ashore.”
Informational materials from National Grid say that the “geotechnical survey work, done by our contractors, will use specialized drills attached to trucks to obtain soil and other samples. The drill is driven by a diesel engine, and makes a three- to four-inch hole in the earth to obtain the sample. Following sample completion, the work area is filled back in and restored to its original condition.”
National Grid noted that the work in each location at the beach would take two to four hours to finish, be conducted after 6 p.m.
“The tests were scheduled to run at the start of August but were delayed,” said Graves, who noted that the submarine cable will be connected to the land-based cable “in a manhole near the point where it comes ashore.”
The 20-mile long submarine cable will run through state and federal waters, while being submerged six feet beneath the seabed, from Scarborough Beach in Narragansett to Crescent Beach on Block Island.
National Grid said that the geotechnical survey work, which is critical to advancing project engineering, must be done before construction can begin on installing the cable. Construction of the cable system will commence in November or December of 2015 and entail directional drilling to bring the cable under the Town Beach.
“The cable will run a minimum of ten feet below the beach and will proceed under the parking lot to Corn Neck Road, where it will connect to the cable that will lead to the National Grid substation to be built on BIPCo property. The lines will run underground with the exception of the final two-tenths of a mile leading to the substation,” said Graves.
National Grid will begin construction of the new Block Island and Narragansett substations this fall. The submarine cable will be installed in April of 2016.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Aug. 14, a complaint was filed in court against the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regarding the power purchase agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid. Benjamin Riggs, a retired manufacturing executive who resides in Newport and Laurence Ehrhardt, a North Kingstown Republican, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Providence seeking to rescind Deepwater Wind’s agreement to sell power to National Grid.
“This is a matter that could have been addressed previously by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as was requested,” said Riggs in an email to The Block Island Times. “However that agency has chosen not to act on it itself but rather to refer the matter to the courts. They did not reject or dismiss it in any way. However the FERC does dismiss unfounded cases all the time.”
Riggs noted that the FERC ruled that, “Our decision not to initiate an enforcement action means that Mr. Riggs may himself bring an enforcement action against the Rhode Island Commission in the appropriate court,” which by law is federal court.
“The current action is limited to asking the federal government to assert its clear authority over the pricing mechanism for the Deepwater project,” said Riggs. “Our lawsuit does not challenge the transmission cable planned for connecting Block Island to the mainland. That project was purchased from Deepwater by National Grid and is expected to fall properly under the jurisdiction of the FERC. The only impact from our action we contemplate is that if they reduce the size of the cable, the cost will go down.”
In reponse to the complaint, Grybowski said, "This complaint is just as baseless as the last several complaints filed by Mr. Riggs that were quickly and summarily rejected by the proper authorities. The project is proceeding at full speed."