Wind Farm begins commercial operation

Island to receive energy next year
Fri, 12/16/2016 - 9:45am

After a two-year construction period, the proverbial switch on the Block Island Wind Farm has been flipped, signifying that the five-turbine pilot project is officially in commercial operation.

“We are now in operation,” Meaghan Wims, spokesperson for Deepwater Wind, told The Times on Monday, Dec. 12. “We are producing energy and delivering it to (National Grid’s) substation on Block Island.”

Deepwater Wind, the project’s developer, said that the 30-megawatt offshore wind farm is now operational for commercial distribution of the energy that it produces. The energy that the wind farm is producing is now being distributed based on demand in the New England region. Block Island will not receive wind-farm-produced energy until it converts from diesel generation and becomes a distribution-only utility, which will occur some time in March or April of 2017. 

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said, “Our success here is a testament to the hard work of hundreds of local workers who helped build this historic project and to the Block Islanders and the thousands more around the U.S. who’ve supported us every step of the way of this amazing journey.”

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm — and I'm proud to be the only governor in America who can say we have steel in the water and blades spinning over the ocean,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “As the Ocean State, we’re motivated by our shared belief that we need to produce and consume cleaner, more sustainable energy and leave our kids a healthier planet - but also by this tremendous economic opportunity. With this project, we’ve put hundreds of our local workers to work at sea and at our world class ports and are growing this innovative industry. I applaud Deepwater Wind for leading the way.”

The energy produced from the Block Island Wind Farm is linked to the New England grid by National Grid’s new sea2shore, Renewable Link, submarine transmission cable system.”

David Graves, National Grid’s Media Relations Director, said on Monday that the energy that the wind farm produces “is being delivered now to our Dillon’s Corner switching station and from there to our Wakefield substation in South Kingstown, and then distributed throughout our system.”

In a press release, National Grid said, “Beginning in January 2016, National Grid oversaw construction of the majority of the infrastructure needed to connect the wind farm to the electric system on mainland Rhode Island. The company will continue to own and maintain the infrastructure, which includes approximately 20 miles of submarine cable, five miles of underground cable, and two new substations (one on Block Island and one in Narragansett).” 

“Per our agreement, National Grid has 100 percent of the obligation to purchase the output” produced by the wind farm, said Graves. “ISO-New England is the overall manager of the New England power system. The electrons flow to where the demand is.”  

National Grid noted that "The Block Island Wind Farm is expected to supply approximately 30 megawatts of electricity, more than enough to meet Block Island’s entire current demand of 3 to 4 megawatts. The excess will be re-directed to mainland Rhode Island via the submarine cable running between Block Island and the town of Narragansett." 

Deepwater Wind said in its release that: "Technicians from General Electric Renewable Energy, which supplied the project’s five offshore wind turbines, put the wind farm through its paces during the four-month testing period. The project’s crew transfer vessel, the Rhode Island-built Atlantic Pioneer, transported technicians to the wind farm around the clock."

With the blades spinning at four to 12 revolutions per minute, each of the Block Island Wind Farm’s GE-brand turbines produces six megawatts of energy when operating at full capacity, enough equivalent power to service 2,000 homes. The wind turbines can operate in wind speeds that range anywhere from six to 56 miles-per-hour. When wind speeds exceed 56 miles-per-hour, each of the wind turbines’ 242-foot-long blades transition into a protective, idling posture, minimizing wind resistance.

According to Deepwater Wind, the wind farm will be operating shorthanded for a short period of time, with a four turbine output instead of five. Turbine number two, the turbine damaged during the project's testing stage, will be offline for about a month or so until the generator can be repaired. A six-inch drill bit left inside the generator during construction caused the damage, and was discovered after tests showed that the turbine wasn’t performing properly.