Students tour B.I. Wind Farm

Impressed by its size
Fri, 06/24/2016 - 12:00pm

On a sunny, warm day, more than 100 Block Island School students, escorted by school staff, boarded a high-speed ferry at Old Harbor for a field trip out to the Block Island Wind Farm.

Deepwater Wind, the company constructing the 30-megawatt wind farm, treated the students to an up-close view of the five steel foundations aboard Interstate Navigation’s Islander on Wednesday, June 15. Third-year captain Tim Fox took the students on an hour-long sojourn to the site, navigating the ferry to within a few hundred yards of foundation number four.

Mariners’ rules call for a 500-yard barrier around the wind farm foundations when construction activity is occurring. Fox kept a safe distance from two of the structures, foundations one and three, where the lift-boats LB Lacie Eymard and LB Michael Eymard were involved in construction activities. 

Bryan Wilson, the Block Island based project manager for Deepwater Wind, hosted the tour, and stood on the top deck of the boat, where he provided information about the wind farm and answered the students’ questions. Wilson gave a tutorial about the project and explained how electrons will be delivered from the turbines to a substation on Block Island, before being routed to the electrical grid on the mainland.

“As far as educational experiences being fun, this really takes the cake. It’s very cool to be able to take the students out to the wind farm,” Wilson said.

Wilson remarked that it’s important to “instill stewardship” of the island in the students. “We have to take care of Block Island,” he said, and noted that the students were “very engaged” during the tour.

The students, who represented the school’s kindergarten through the 12th grade, had varying reactions to witnessing the wind farm firsthand, but most agreed that the steel foundation structures were bigger than they appeared from the island.

“They’re a lot bigger than I thought,” said recent graduate Richie Conant, who made the trip along with fellow graduates Reva van Lent and Wade Ortel. 

Junior Bridgette Keane echoed Richie Conant’s sentiments and felt that the steel foundation structures were “a lot bigger than I thought they were going to be.” 

“It’s crazy how big they are up close,” said ninth grader Mary Conant. “I didn’t expect that.”

“It’s impressive how they built them,” said Sawyer Milstead. 

“It was something that you thought could happen, but now it’s a reality,” said seventh grader Tim Connor.

“It blows my mind that these things will be out here for 20 years,” said Tyler Mack. “Think about how much this is going to transform the island.”

While most of the students were in agreement about the wind farm’s size, their opinions varied on what the project will provide for Block Island.

“I’m not sure about it. I want to hear more about it,” said Noah McCabe. “I want to know if it is going to save money or not.”

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Keane. “Global warming is an issue.”

“There’s stuff I’d like to know about. Like how it’s going to work,” said Mary Conant. “So, I don’t know how I feel about them.”

“I like the wind farm,” said Richie Conant. “It’s the first in the nation.”

“They’re really cool,” said Milstead. “I think the wind farm is going to help the Block Island environment.”

Construction of the wind turbines will begin this summer. 

The Block Island Wind Farm is expected to be operational in the fall of 2016.