Wind farm to deliver power in January

Cable transmission system to go live Nov. 15
Fri, 09/02/2016 - 11:45am
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Energy generated by the Block Island Wind Farm will be delivered to the island in November, as part of the testing phase, and then distributed to the mainland electrical grid in January 2017, according to BIPCo President Al Casazza. 

“We expect to buy power by Jan. 1, 2017,” said Casazza. “The expected date for completion of the wind farm is early November. There will be a period of several weeks of testing between the mainland and the wind farm before the connection between BIPCo and the wind farm can be tested.”

National Grid’s substation, still under construction on property adjacent to the Block Island Power Co. plant, will be going live on Nov. 15, 2016, according to National Grid Media Relations Director David Graves. Testing of the cable transmission equipment will be completed in the next few months.

“Work is continuing on the substation,” Graves told The Block Island Times on Monday. “Extensive testing of the entire system will be done in the next couple of months. We are on schedule to meet our Nov. 15, 2016 goal of having the system going live, barring any unforeseen events.”

When the Wind Farm and cable transmission system are operational, the energy the turbines generate and convert for use at the local level will be delivered to National Grid and Deepwater Wind’s Block Island substations. While some of the energy produced by the turbines will be delivered into BIPCo’s system, National Grid will own 100 percent of the power that is generated by the wind farm.

National Grid Engineer David Campilii explained how the energy will be distributed after being generated by the Block Island Wind Farm.

“Contractually, National Grid will be purchasing 100 percent of the wind farm’s output and adding that to the rest of the generation mix that we purchase and pass through to our customers,” said Campilii. “BIPCo will have access to the wholesale power market through the cable interconnection, and will purchase power from that market,” known as ISO-New England.

“Physically, some of the output generated from the wind farm will flow into the BIPCo system, and the rest will flow to the mainland if the wind farm is generating more than BIPCo uses,” said Campilii. “Conversely, if the wind farm is not generating, power will flow over the cable from the mainland to the island to supply BIPCo. There will be meters installed to capture how much power BIPCo purchases, and how much power Deepwater Wind generates, and each of these meter-reads will be handled as a separate transaction. BIPCo will not be buying power directly from Deepwater Wind, and there is no designation of a percentage of the wind farm output for BIPCo use.”

As for buying power from the mainland grid, Casazza said that BIPCo has “most of the paperwork completed. The remaining paperwork concerns payment for the electricity and cannot be filed until five weeks before commencement.” BIPCo was also granted a waiver by the Public Utilities Commission to operate as a distributor and power producer, for backup purposes. 

National Grid’s $107 million sea2shore cable is embedded six feet beneath the seafloor linking Block Island to the mainland electrical grid.

After a fire damaged three of BIPCo’s five generators, the island has relied on power from two temporary generators that were brought over to the island by chartered boat on July 23. Since the monthly cost of those generators is approximately $100,000, BIPCo was given approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission to pass that cost onto the island’s ratepayers.

The cost of operating those two rental generators will decrease by half in October due to less demand, with only one rental generator needed to supply power to the island. Casazza noted that if the cable had not been installed as part of the wind farm project, BIPCo would have had to rely on the rental generators for an extended period of time. 

“We would have preferred to have all five diesel engines operative. Not having the cable would have meant having the rental trailers (generators) for a longer period of time,” said Casazza. “We expect one of the trailers will be removed in September, and the other when BIPCo is receiving power from the cable.” 

The Block Island Wind Farm is expected to produce more than 125,000 megawatts of electricity annually, which is enough energy to supply 17,000 homes per year.