America's First Offshore Wind Farm Powers Up

Block Island

By The Maritime Executive 2016-12-13 10:12:58

The Block Island Wind Farm is now operational, the first offshore wind farm to deliver energy to the American power grid.

Developer Deepwater Wind said commissioning is now complete and commercial operations have begun to deliver electricity into the New England region’s grid on a regular basis. The energy produced from the Block Island Wind Farm is linked to the New England grid by National Grid’s new sea2shore submarine transmission cable system.

The 30MW installation is capable of providing power to about 17,000 homes.

“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. 

The project cost $451 million, according to Forbes. This includes $225 million for equipment, construction and installation, $118 million for design, legal and permitting and $108 million for the undersea cable needed to connect the facility to the established mainland grid.

Technicians from GE 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.

The historic milestone concludes the successful two-year offshore installation of the wind farm, which Deepwater Wind completed on-time and on-budget. More than 300 local workers helped develop, build and commission this historic project. Deepwater Wind utilized four separate Rhode Island port facilities – ProvPort, Quonset Point, Galilee and Block Island – to complete the wind farm’s staging, construction and commissioning over the last two years.

The turbines were installed by Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s jack-up installation vessel Brave Tern. The Brave Tern carried the five nacelles 3,300 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from General Electric’s manufacturing plant in France. 

Prior to installing the turbines, Deepwater Wind and GE assembled the electrical components of the towers at a temporary assembly facility at the Port of Providence. The lift-boats, Caitlin and Paul, then delivered the 15 blades and 15 tower sections on-site for assembly. 

The project’s local contractors included: AECOM, Aero Mechanical Inc., AIS Observers, Aladdin Electric, Badd Brothers, Bay Crane New England, Blount Boats, Challenge Electronics, Communication Systems Inc., DiPrete Engineering, Duffy & Shanley, E.W. Audet, Eagle Elevator, ESS Group, Essex Newbury, Fuss & O’Neill, GeoEnvironmental, GZA, Hart Engineering, Hinckley Allen, Inspire Environmental, Keough & Sweeney, Mayforth Group, Meridan Ocean Services, Mott MacDonald, National Grid, Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s Atlantic Wind Transfers, Specialty Diving Services, VHB, Waterson Terminal Services, and WF Shea, among others. Earlier this summer, National Grid completed installation of the sea2shore submarine cable connection between Block Island and mainland Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind’s supplier and construction partners included GE Renewable Energy, Gulf Island Fabrication, Fred. Olsen Windcarrier, LM Windpower and LS Cable, Montco Offshore and Weeks Marine.

The project’s investors include Deepwater Wind’s principal owner, an affiliate of the D.E. Shaw group, Citi, and GE Energy Financial Services, along with lenders Societe Generale, KeyBank, HSBC, SMBC, Cobank, and La Caixa.

Deepwater Wind has plans for other projects including one at Long Island, another island with high electricity rates and a power system dependent on burning oil.