Gearing up for National Grid

And its $107 million cable
Sun, 01/10/2016 - 8:15am

Installation of the $107 million National Grid cable transmission system associated with the Block Island Wind Farm is set to begin in a few weeks. David Graves, spokesman for National Grid informed The Block Island Times on Jan. 5 that the utility company has not yet set an official start date for construction activity to commence on Block Island, although work has already begun in Narragansett.

“The contractors who will be doing drilling work on the island have already begun a similar process in Narragansett, and are scheduled to start on Block Island’s Crescent Beach in February,” said Graves by email. “The remaining contractors and details, including cable and substation work, should be finalized in the coming weeks.”

Graves noted that National Grid will be on schedule and meet its timeline. “Work will begin in late winter and should be completed by late spring. National Grid’s goal is to have all major components of the project completed by this fall. An extensive testing process must take place following the completion of construction.” He also said that the submarine “cable should reach Crescent Beach sometime in early to mid-May.”

The only obstacle that National Grid foresees in causing a construction delay is weather related. “Weather is usually the biggest reason for a construction delay, particularly as it pertains to the horizontal directional drilling efforts on Scarborough and installation of the submarine cable,” he said.

The 20-mile long submarine transmission cable, called sea2shore, will be buried six feet under the seafloor in federal and state waters. It will connect the town of New Shoreham, as well as the Block Island Wind Farm, to the mainland statewide electrical grid system. The cable will run from Scarborough Beach in Narragansett to Crescent Beach and then from the new substation out to the wind farm.

“Engineering, constructing and maintaining a number of key components for the Block Island Transmission System, or sea2shore as we’ve named it, has provided National Grid with a great source of pride for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that we are playing a significant role in the development of our country’s first off-shore wind farm. No other utility can make that claim,” said Timothy F. Horan, president of National Grid in Rhode Island.

Horan noted that the project also provides National Grid “with another strong proof point in our commitment to Connect21, our initiative to update, enhance and diversify the systems that our customers rely on every day for the delivery of safe, reliable energy. But perhaps most importantly, this project gives us the chance to engage with customers and hear their thoughts and concerns on the how the generation and delivery of energy is changing and what that means to them on a personal level. So, while we’re excited about the completion of this project in the coming year, we’re equally excited about the journey that’s taking us there.”

According to Graves, National Grid’s construction work on Block Island will include: horizontal directional drilling on Crescent Beach for the submarine cable; installation of a substation (on the BIPCo property); land cable installation (between Crescent Beach and BIPCo’s property); overhead cable installation (on the BIPCo property only); and, installation of the submarine cable which will connect with the underground cable in a manhole being installed in the parking lot at Crescent Beach.

Graves said that “the first phases of construction — the National Grid-owned substation on the BIPCo property — is scheduled for late January, early February, and the horizontal directional drilling at Crescent Beach is slated to begin in February.”

Graves said that “all necessary permits have been pulled” by National Grid for the project. “We have our paperwork in order,” he said. 

“There are more than 20 federal, state and local permits and siting requirements for this project,” explained Graves. “Those (approvals) specific to Block Island have come from the Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Historic District Commission, Zoning Board, and the Town Council. We have a full list that details out the permits.” 

Local approvals acqired by National Grid involved the New Shoreham Conservation Commission and Plannings Board: an advisory to zoning, the Historic District Commission: advisory to zoning and certificate of appropriateness, the Zoning Board: Special Use Permit — BIPCo parcel, the Planning Board: development plan review — BIPCo parcel, and the Town Council: options for easements from Town Council for beach landing and installing the cable in town roads.  

New Shoreham Building Official Marc Tillson told The Times that “No permits for the construction of the substation at BIPCo have been applied for, and yes, a building permit is required.” 

Tillson also said, “As National Grid is a public utility regulated by the PUC (Public Utilities Commission), primary transmission cable aboveground or underground does not require a local permit for those installations. Municipalities only permit and inspect the secondary electrical services and electrical wiring downstream of the secondary service point. Deepwater and National Grid will however have to comply with their local Zoning Approval, as to location of utility poles, the substation and the approved route of the transmission cable.”

In response to Tillson’s assertion that the permit for the substation to be built on the BIPCo property hasn’t been pulled, Graves said,“He’s referring to the switching building on the BIPCo property. We will apply for that after the project gets underway.”

National Grid will be utilizing an assortment of machinery to install the cable transmission system on the island.

“There will be a number of pieces of heavy equipment utilized for this project including a drill rig, for the horizontal directional drilling work, and other pieces typically used for the installation of underground lines, overhead lines and substations,” said Graves, who noted that project details can be found at “Details on the transportation of this equipment (to the island) are still being finalized.”

Graves said that National Grid does not know how many workers will be employed on the project. “This is not something we can readily answer or determine,” he said. “This is determined by our contractors, which are held to completing rigorous National Grid contractual work agreements. We’re working with the contractor to get a count on the number of people they’ll have working on the island.”

“Accommodations (for workers) will be handled by the companies doing the construction,” said Graves. “At most, there will be just a handful of National Grid employees on the island at any given time.”

The five turbine, 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm is located three miles off the southeast coast of Block Island.