Wind farm turbine installation begins

First tower erected this week
Fri, 08/05/2016 - 10:30am

The final phase of offshore construction got underway this week at the Block Island Wind Farm. From the viewpoint of the Southeast Lighthouse bluffs, activity could be witnessed involving a large lift-boat, aided by two smaller lift-boats, utilizing a crane to hoist the first wind turbine tower components into place atop foundation number one.

The construction signals commencement of installation of the wind farm's five 260-foot tall wind turbine towers. Deepwater Wind, the wind energy company constructing the project, said that tower construction would be completed in about a month’s time, although the overall project won’t be finished and operational until later in the fourth quarter.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski told The Block Island Times that, “It’s a big moment for the project. We’ve now entered our final construction phase and the team is laser-focused on the job at hand and bringing this historic project across the finish line.”

"This is sure to be a momentous summer," added Grybowski, "not just for this project, but also for the start of a new American industry."

Deepwater Wind completed assembly of the first turbine tower at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. The construction of the tower involved utilization of  Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s 433-foot long lift-boat Brave Tern with its four 303-foot long legs and 800-ton lift capacity crane.

The Brave Tern arrived from France on Sunday, July 31, after carting five newly fabricated General Electric brand nacelle components 3,300 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. The large and unique lift-boat has the capability of utilizing its legs to lift itself well above above sea level during construction activity.

The Brave Tern is being supported by two smaller lift-boats called the LB Paul and the LB Caitlin, which delivered the components for the first turbine tower from the Port of Providence to the wind farm site this past weekend. Those components included the three tower sections and the three blades.

Assembly of the turbine towers will entail installation of the three tower sections atop the foundations, followed by installation of the power generating nacelles and the three blades. It will require a total of 128 bolts to fasten each of the 241-foot long, 29-ton blades to the nacelle.

During the construction process, the LB Paul and LB Caitlin will deliver turbine tower components to the wind farm site where the Brave Tern will then install them atop the foundations. According to Deepwater Wind, the Brave Tern will remain at the wind farm site throughout the duration of the installation activity.

As for the challenges that Deepwater Wind could face with its final stage of construction, Grybowski said the project has been "big and complicated." There are also variables that the company will have to confront in the coming months, such as inclement weather, and coordinating the testing of the energy production portion of the project before the wind farm becomes operational. 

Bryan Martin, Deepwater Wind Chairman, told The Times that the final installation stage would require technicians to learn the logistics associated with this part of the assembly process. Martin said that once technicians complete installation of the first wind turbine tower, subsequent assembly should proceed more efficiently.

Deepwater Wind president Chris van Beek told The Times that construction of the towers should be completed by the end of August, and the turbine blades would be spinning for test purposes in September. The Block Island Wind Farm is located in a high wind zone three miles off the southeast coast of Block Island.