Wind farm to be tested in September

Construction to be completed in August
Fri, 07/29/2016 - 12:00pm

The Block Island Wind Farm’s blades will be ready and spinning beginning in September. Project officials say the blades will be spinning for testing purposes only and will not be operational until later in the fall.

That’s what Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski and President Chris van Beek said during an event hosted by the wind energy company on Monday, July 25 at the Port of Providence to kickoff commencement of the project’s final stage of construction. Amidst a swirling wind and sunny, hot conditions, a crowd of people gazed in awe at the impressive, large components assembled at Deepwater Wind and General Electric’s temporary dockside facility. 

After Deepwater Wind Chairman Bryan Martin and Gov. Gina Raimondo spoke at a dais positioned in front of 15 newly fabricated General Electric brand blades, Grybowski followed with an energized speech punctuated by his declarartion that the blades would soon be spinning. 

“By early September the first offshore wind farm in the United States will be ready to start spinning its blades,” said Grybowski. “And that will be a momentous occasion.”

Grybowski’s comments were met with applause from those assembled at the event. During his speech, Grybowski noted that installation of the wind farm would be completed in August, on a project that was conceived back in 2008, and has taken eight-and-a-half years to come to fruition.

He pointed out that Deepwater Wind has completed two stages of construction and are now embarking on stage three: the final stage. “The foundations were installed last summer. The cable laying for this project was completed just last week [with the linking of the five foundations]. In early August we will start the final installation,” he said. “It will only take about a month to get that done.”

That construction period will involve the installation of the five 6-megawatt, 260-foot tall wind turbine towers, as well as the power generating nacelles and the blades.

Grybowski said that each of the 241-foot long blades weighs “about 29 tons” and “are the longest wind turbine blades in North America.” He explained that “128 bolts” would be utilized to attach each of the blades to the five nacelles during the offshore construction process. A large lift-boat, the Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s Brave Tern, will employ its 800-ton capacity crane to aid installation of the components at the wind farm site.

“You get the idea that this is a really big, complicated, construction project,” said Grybowski. “This is an important day. It’s been a long time coming, for some us who have been around since the very beginning.”

While addressing the crowd, Gov. Raimondo remarked that, “Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm is the first offshore wind farm of its kind in North America. I love that. I love it when Rhode Island is the first.”

“Rhode Island is literally leading the way, in this country, in offshore wind,” she added. “So what does that mean for Rhode Island? It means a cleaner source of energy. Ultimately it means lower costs of energy. It means a diversified energy supply. And it means a lot of jobs.” She noted that over 300 local jobs have been created by construction of the wind farm. 

Raimondo said the story of the state’s decline “over the past 20 years” was due to lost manufacturing and innovation-based jobs. “This is precisely the kind of company, industry, and jobs that we want to be the world leader in. Being first means we will be able to create more of these jobs. This is the way to rebuild our economy.”  

Van Beek, who serves as project manager and has worked in offshore construction for over 25 years, told The Block Island Times that the wind farm was on schedule, and he expects construction to be completed in August.

“Things are going well. Everything is coming together,” said van Beek. “We start loading out all of the components this week. Construction will be done in August. You will see the blades spinning in September.”

Van Beek said that in the early stages, when the blades start spinning, each turbine would be producing about 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The power will be routed from the turbines to what van Beek called a “test bank” on the island for testing. “You have to test out all of the components to make sure that they are functioning properly.”

Regarding the fire at the Block Island Power Company on Friday, July 22, that caused a lengthy power outage, Deepwater Wind officials voiced their concerns while speaking with The Times.

“My first reaction was to inquire with (Deepwater Wind Project Manager) Bryan Wilson to make sure people were safe and there weren’t any injuries,” said Grybowski. “I was happy that BIPCo was able to restore power as quickly as possible.”

Grybowski noted that the substations that Deepwater Wind and National Grid are each constructing on the BIPCo property are separate from the utility’s generating system and were not impacted by the fire.

Van Beek echoed Grybowski’s sentiments, and said he was glad no one was injured, while noting that Deepwater Wind’s transmission system is independent of BIPCo’s infrastructure.

Martin said that when he toured BIPCo’s facility three or four years ago he thought that the equipment looked old. He also noted that Block Island would soon be receiving its power from the wind farm instead of the power company.

When asked his thoughts about being on the verge of completing construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm, Martin said, “It’s a little surreal.” He said once all of the components are in the process of being installed the reality of what his company has accomplished will start to hit home.

“It’s really exciting,” said Martin. “It won’t be long before we’re producing power.”