EUTG impressed with first stages of wind farm

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 9:45am

The Electric Utility Task Group rescheduled its meeting for Monday, April 27 to Wednesday, April 29 due to the construction kick-off event held in Quonset by Deepwater Wind, which EUTG members Bill Penn and Everett Shorey attended.

In the portion of the meeting when the EUTG received its monthly update from Deepwater’s Block Island liaison Bryan Wilson, the construction ceremony was front and center. Wilson noted that there was “full representation” on both the federal and Rhode Island governmental levels, including Gov. Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island’s full congressional delegation of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline. From Block Island, Second Warden Norris Pike, and resident Henry du Pont also attended.

Shorey wanted it known that state Sen. Susan Sosnowski was also there. “She’s been a huge supporter of this,” he said. In speaking of Monday’s event, Shorey said that there were “Several things I found impressive," adding that it's "huge to get the full congressional delegation there.” 

Shorey also felt that the focus on the laborers in Quonset (from Specialty Diving Services) “was pretty interesting. Those guys were doing a good job,” he said referring to the welding being done at the site. “The efforts I’ve seen were working to quality.” 

“This has been our mantra,” said Wilson, emphasizing that everything on the project had to be done exactly right, down to the smallest details, such as repairing a paint scratch on a turbine’s blade. 

As Penn had noted earlier, July 18 would be the date “when barges would be out on the southeast corner of the island.”

Wilson elaborated: “July 18 the first of five barges will be on-station, as well as a crane barge.” This will be the start of the construction phase when the jacketed steel foundations are installed. Wilson explained that pilings would be driven through holes in the four corners of the foundations into the seabed. But first there will be a geophysical survey of the areas involved by a company named Pangea. He explained that the survey was like taking a cat-scan image of an area 30 meters in diameter, going down 120 feet. He said that this would allow the surveyors to determine if there were any “glacial erratics” in the area. “If we find a slew of glacial erratics, we can slightly move the foundation," said Wilson.

Shorey put it in layman’s terms: “It’s like finding the large rocks before using the posthole digger.” 

Wilson was asked about the archaeology research that was going on along part of Beach Avenue, near Twin Maples, and he said that that work was being done under the auspices of National Grid, not Deepwater, so he couldn’t officially comment on it, although he did say the group doing the research was from the Public Archaelogy Lab (“A leading cultural research management firm,” according to its website). 

For a while the discussion veered into other archaeological research projects currently or recently having been done on the island, unrelated to Deepwater or National Grid, including a few jokes about the “archaelogical artifacts” coming out of West Beach due to erosion by Hurricane Sandy at that site. 

Then Wilson got back to the Deepwater Wind project itself. He told the group that the wind turbines are under construction in France. On this side of the pond, Wilson said, the “terrestrial work will begin in winter,” referring to the building of the two substations, one on Block Island and the other on the mainland, as well as the laying of the cable from the point of entries at the shore to those substations. “At this point there’s a lot of stuff going on," he said.

Wilson elaborated on the local labor that will be involved in the project this summer. He said that there would be 75 people going back and forth between Block Island and the mainland, primarily to Narragansett. There will also be 24 “marine mammal observers” and representatives from Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Coast Guard. There will also be “30-ish” employees from Deepwater involved. 

Wilson said that Deepwater had gone from “12 core folks” to 45 now working out of Providence, and he told the group that the company had recently moved its offices to accommodate the growth. 

After the Deepwater update, the EUTG turned it focus to preparing for a joint meeting with the Town Council to discuss future policy issues relating to the Block Island Power Company (BIPCo) that occured later that same day. (See related story by Cassius Shuman)

It is anticipated that BIPCo will be filing a rate case with the R.I. Public Utilities Commission when the wind farm goes online and the local power company will function as a power distributor, as opposed to a power generator and distributor, as they are now. At prior meetings, it had been agreed that all parties needed to be proactive on the subject and should work collaboratively to avoid future legal costs and issues of contention, should they arise.