Construction completed, Wind Farm enters final phases

Project advancing toward testing stage
Fri, 08/19/2016 - 12:15pm

For the past few weeks a large marine vessel has taken up residence at the Block Island Wind Farm site, dwarfing everything around it while meticulously, and expediently constructing the project’s five wind turbine towers piece-by-piece. Deepwater Wind spokesperson Meaghan Wims told The Block Island Times that the final blade was installed on turbine five on Thursday, Aug. 18. 

Assembly of the Block Island Wind Farm’s five wind turbine towers, which stand 260-feet tall atop their foundations, is expected to be completed by month’s end, according to Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski. The wind turbines are now poised to receive the locale’s seemingly persistent and strong offshore winds to begin producing power. 

The assembly of the turbines began on Tuesday, Aug. 2, and proceeded without major delays. One reason assembly is on schedule was due to Deepwater Wind’s deployment of Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s 433-foot long lift boat, the Brave Tern

Now the project will turn to the testing stage before going online and becoming fully operational later in the year. Deepwater Wind said the company would begin testing the equipment by implementing a test bank at the Block Island Power Company’s property. During the testing stage, Deepwater Wind’s 30-megawatt wind farm will be integrated into National Grid’s 30-megawatt cable transmission system.

Once the wind towers are fully assembled and then commissioned the blades will start spinning one-by-one, explained Anders Soe-Jensen, CEO, Offshore Wind, General Electric Renewable Energy. Soe-Jensen spoke with The Block Island Times on Monday, Aug. 15 at the Old Harbor inner basin dock.  

Soe-Jensen was at Old Harbor waiting to board a boat for a tour of the wind farm that was hosted by Deepwater Wind. He was previously employed as offshore vice president of Alstom, the French offshore wind energy company that General Electric purchased for $10 billion in November of 2015. General Electric has been fabricating all of the components for the Block Island Wind Farm’s turbines.

Prior to installing the turbines, Deepwater Wind and General Electric assembled the electrical components of the towers at a temporary assembly facility situated dockside at the Port of Providence. The lift-boats, the LB Caitlin and the LB Paul, delivered the 15 blades and 15 tower sections from the Port of Providence facility to the wind farm site for assembly. The Brave Tern carted the project’s five nacelles 3,300 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from General Electric’s manufacturing plant in France.

Soe-Jensen said that General Electric is utilizing knowledge gained from its aviation division and applying it to its offshore wind energy division called General Electric Renewable Energy. “The possibilities at GE are unrivaled in the offshore industry,” remarked Soe-Jensen, who has been working in the offshore wind energy industry for 10 years.

The first offshore wind farm was installed in Denmark in 1991, and business has blossomed with many offshore farms now residing in European waters. So construction of offshore wind farms is not new to industry professionals. Despite that, Soe-Jensen said, “There are things to be learned here in the United States.” 

“It’s fantastic to be a part of creating history,” he said, noting that the Block Island Wind Farm is the first offshore wind farm to be constructed outside of Europe. “It’s the first offshore wind farm in the United States. But the planning, know-how and skills have made this project work like clockwork.”