A first glimpse at the towers
With Narragansett Bay as a backdrop, and in strong, gusting winds suitable for generating wind energy, five 95-foot-tall wind turbine towers, resembling rockets perched on launch pads, towered over a gathering of state and local officials, industry professionals, and members of the public. Deepwater Wind and GE were the hosts for the tour of the Block Island Wind Farm tower assembly hub at ProvPort.
“It is an exciting day,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski. “To be here in ProvPort with all of our partners on a critical step, an important step. We're halfway through construction of the Block Island Wind Farm.”
“I think the fact that it’s so windy today is a perfect backdrop to this event,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo. “I am exploding with pride over the fact that Rhode Island is the site of this nation's first offshore wind farm.” Raimondo noted that, “It's good to see GE's presence here in Rhode Island.”
“If you can dream it, you can make it,” said Anders Soe-Jensen, CEO, Offshore Wind, General Electric Renewable Energy, whose company is installing electrical and mechanical components in the five wind turbine tower sections. “General Electric is proud to be creating history by being part of the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.”
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said, “Rhode Island has been known for generations as being an innovator.” With this project “I feel that exact same potential, possibility and energy. I believe in a working waterfront — that brings together clean energy and green energy.”
“Great things are happening at ProvPort,” said Paul Moura, Board Chairman of the Port of Providence. “We stand in support of Deepwater Wind and GE developing the first offshore wind farm in North America. And we are well positioned to support additional wind energy development in the future.”
The officials made their remarks inside a climate-controlled tent where assembly is being conducted, with the five turbine tower sections viewable in the background behind them.
U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) said that the tower sections reminded him of rockets perched on launch pads — ready for liftoff. “I think that's a great metaphor for green energy in Rhode Island,” he said. “The hard work has paid off. I am highly confident that once these wind turbines are up and running, this project will be the pride of Rhode Island.”
Soe-Jensen said that General Electric Renewable Energy has installed more than 30,000 onshore wind turbines and “is the biggest renewable energy company in the world. I'm excited about the future in the U.S. offshore wind industry.” Soe-Jensen noted that he's been involved with the European wind energy business since its inception, and believes the success of that industry can be replicated in the U.S.
General Electric Renewable Energy is the entity responsible for supplying all five of the 6-megawatt Haliade 150 offshore wind turbines for the Block Island Wind Farm. According to GE, the five large Haliade turbines are capable of generating 30-megawatts of power, enough to produce about 125,000-megawatt hours of electricity, to meet approximately 90 percent of Block Island's electricity demand, about 5,000 households per annum, and save over 21,000 metric tons of CO2 during the turbines’ lifetime.
Since January, GE, which purchased Alstom’s energy business in Nov. of 2015, has employed 160 local laborers at a temporary manufacturing facility at ProvPort where they have been installing electrical, mechanical and safety equipment in the wind turbine towers. The towers were fabricated by French manufacturer Alstom in Spain and delivered to ProvPort this past fall for the final stages of assembly.
Once assembly of the wind turbine tower sections is completed at ProvPort, the towers, each consisting of three separate sections, with a total height of 270-feet and weighing 440-tons, will be loaded by crane onto two lift-boats, the Caitlin and the Paul, for transportation to the wind farm site.
Grybowski said that in August, the towers will “be floating down Narragansett Bay. There will be some spectacular moments from the top of the Newport Bridge as these towers float underneath that bridge on their way to” the Block Island Wind Farm site.
At 560 feet, the turbine towers, once installed, will be twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. The diameter of the rotor — 490 feet — is more than double the wingspan of a 747 jumbo jet.
Various project officials noted that construction of the wind farm was progressing well. Soe-Jensen said that “GE and Deepwater Wind are a perfect match to make this wind farm run.”.
“We're really excited that GE is part of this,” said Grybowski. “GE has been a critical project partner. It's critical for us in the United States to have a U.S. manufacturer of offshore wind turbines.”
A number of officials credited Grybowski with bringing jobs to Rhode Island while being a “resilient” and “persistent” steward of the project.
“I give Jeff a lot of credit,” said Mike Daley, Business Manager for Local 99, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “There were a lot of people that said this couldn't be done. It was too expensive. Jeff said he was going to bring jobs to Rhode Island workers, and he kept his word.” Daley noted that there were 50 electricians from the IBEW working on the project.
Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White echoed Daley’s sentiment, and said Grybowski is “indefatigable and highly resilient. When he gets his mind set on something he’s not going to let it go.”
Chris van Beek, Deepwater Wind’s President told The Block Island Times that, “Jeff gets the credit, and he deserves it.” Van Beek said it’s a “fantastic feeling” to watch the project come to life, but he noted that he is “focused on the work ahead. It's too early not to be focused.”
“The towers will be finished in May,” said van Beek. “And the load-out will be in late July.”
Grybowski told The Times that while assembly of the wind turbine towers was progressing well at ProvPort, there is “a lot of work to be done on the cable side” of the project.
National Grid’s subcontractors are currently installing components of the cable transmission system on Block Island, with the 20-mile long submarine cable, designed to link the island to the mainland, expected to reach the conduit at Fred Benson Town Beach in early to mid-May.
Grybowski has stated that the Block Island Wind Farm will be completed and become operational some time in the fourth quarter of 2016.