Deepwater Wind erects 180-foot tower to collect wind data

Mon, 08/03/2009 - 4:00am
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08/01/09 - It took most of the day, but by late afternoon on July 24 construction workers had a 180-foot meteorological tower in place and secured at the entrance to the Great Salt Pond.

The single-pole tower, erected by Deepwater Wind, contains anemometers at multiple heights to measure wind speed. The company is collecting data in preparation for constructing two wind farms off the coast of Block Island.

The tower sits amid sand dunes and low vegetation against the impressive backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Coast Guard Station to the south. Boats pass closely by as they enter and exit the Great Salt Pond through the channel.

“This is unquestionably the most dramatic view of a met tower,” Deepwater CEO Bill Moore said while admiring the sweeping views.

On July 24, five workers used a gin pole and a winch powered by a battery in an SUV to hoist the roughly 4,000-pound metal tower. Every few minutes they stopped and inspected the equipment and guy wires supporting the tower.

Eventually, the tower rose 90 degrees and was secured with guy wires to 34 cement blocks, each weighing 4,500 pounds. The “eco-blocks” eliminate the need to dig into the ground and disturb the environment. Once Deepwater finishes its data collection, likely two years from now, an excavator will remove the blocks.

In March, the Town Council granted approval for the tower to be placed on the town-owned land; the approval is subject to renewal every six months. On July 13, the state Coastal Resources Management Council also gave Deepwater the green light. Both bodies hailed the tower as a stepping-stone to building the first offshore wind farm in the United States. But some neighbors complained that the town’s approval process circumvented them, and they also expressed worry about the impact on their views.

In one decision that may placate some neighbors, Deepwater executives said the Federal Aviation Administration determined the tower does not need a light at the top.

Separately, a research vessel visited the waters around Block Island last weekend to take core samples of the seabed. Deepwater executives want to know if the soil can support the structures that would host the wind turbines. Deepwater executives also said that avian and bat studies remain ongoing.