One Turbine Offline But Block Island Wind Farm a Go


PROVIDENCE — When the Block Island Wind Farm officially goes online this month only four of its five offshore turbines will be operating.

Turbine 2 broke down in early November during routine testing, Deepwater Wind reported during its final monthly status report on Nov. 29. A weeklong inspection revealed a metal object in a gap between the turbine’s generator and direct-drive system. The object turned out to be a 6-inch drill bit left behind during assembly of the 6-megawatt General Electric Haliade turbine, which was built at GE’s factory in Saint-Nazaire, France.

GE bought the turbine facility when it acquired the energy business of Alstom in November 2015 for nearly $10 billion.

Deepwater Wind president Chris Van Beek said the malfunction is a minor delay. The turbine will be running again in January, after damaged magnets in the generator are replaced. New magnets weigh about 60 pounds apiece and will be raised manually up the 330-foot-high tower to the generator housing.

Van Beek said the repair is covered under warranty and GE will pay the cost. GE has a 15-year contract to maintain the turbines, which are estimated to run for 20 years.

One flawed turbine isn’t unusual for a new wind farm with 30 or 40 windmills but rare for a project with five turbines, said Van Beek, a 25-year veteran of offshore oil and gas construction.

He noted that the turbines were already providing a benefit to fishermen. The underwater foundations are attracting sea life. Boats aren’t allowed to tie to the wind platforms or anchor near the turbines, but, “You can do all of the fishing you want,” Van Beek said.

“Fishing is taking place inside our wind farm in between the turbines without any problem,” he said.

Even with one turbine offline, the remaining four turbines will deliver electricity to the power grid when the system goes live in a few days. National Grid is already paying for electricity hitting the grid during the wind farm’s test phase. Deepwater Wind expects to flip the switch soon after it finalizes its power contract with ISO New England, the operator of the region’s power grid.

The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) wasn’t fazed by the setback and voted unanimously at its Nov. 29 meeting to approve final commercial operation of the Block Island Wind Farm. CRMC approval means that Deepwater Wind can begin getting paid 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for the renewable electricity. The rate increases 3.5 percent annually for 20 years. The final price will be 47.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. Residential customers currently pay 8.179 cents per kilowatt-hour. Initially, residential customer will be paying about $1.07 a month more for their electricity to subsidize the power-purchase agreement.

During the past two years, CRMC has received monthly status reports on the project from Deepwater Wind and ABS Consulting Inc., an independent evaluator of the project. Despite safety and construction incidents in 2015, the agency was largely impressed with the construction process.

ABS said it is satisfied that Deepwater Wind used “accepted engineering practices” in the installation of the turbines and the fabrication of parts. ABS, however, said Deepwater Wind must still observe the repairs to Turbine 2 and review a final report for the commissioning of the turbines. ABS also is waiting for a report on an unspecified issue with the flange.

“But we believe that there should be no issues with issuing the final approval,” said Ted Hofbauer, ABS director of renewables business development.

CRMC member Tony Affigne said the nation’s first offshore wind farm was held to high standards and extra scrutiny to reduce future potential tribulations and serve as a role model for future offshore wind projects.

The project has created positive news and an improved attitude among the public, helping counter the state’s occasional cynical attitude, he added.

“Every Rhode Islander I’ve talked to is proud that we are first,” Affigne said.

Rhode Islanders may be proud of the project, but they will also be paying a little more for their electricity. Electricity rates, though, are expected to drop significantly on Block Island. If there is sufficient wind, the turbines will supply electricity to the island, otherwise electricity will come from a new cable connected to the mainland. The wind farm and undersea electricity allows Block Island to end its reliance on power from highly polluting diesel generators. Block Island residents recently bought the Block Island Power Corporation and will keep one of the diesel generators as a backup power source.

State energy leaders say Rhode Island stepped up to help the offshore wind project succeed where others have failed. First, the state’s novel Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), created by CRMC in 2008, offered a road map and expedited approval process. CRMC gave itself oversight of permitting and construction and the authority to hire an independent consultant, ABS, to review most of the hardware manufacturing and construction. Of course, it helped that the state also upheld Deepwater Wind’s lucrative power-purchase agreement, one that endured court challenges and required legislative approval to get consent from the state Public Utilities Commission.

Although he’s not mentioned much in the press or by Deepwater Wind, former Gov. Donald Carcieri pushed hard for the project and the power-purchase agreement.

“Of course, he was a champion of the project from the beginning. He deserves a lot of credit,” Grybowski told ecoRI News earlier this year.

More wind projects
Despite the many hurdles for the Block Island Wind Farm project — it was up to four years behind original estimates to be operating — offshore wind projects are steadily advancing in the region. Deepwater Wind is moving ahead on several proposals between New York and Massachusetts.

Affigne expects that the Block Island Wind Farm isn’t likely the last off the coast of Rhode Island. The region has the dual distinction of delivering some of the best winds in the country and a high rate of sea-level rise, which offers some urgency to cut climate emissions.

The combination means that the state has plenty of incentives, including a budding industry, to entice the offshore market. Van Beek said Deepwater Wind intends to remain in its downtown Providence office. The company is already working on a 14- to 15-turbine project in federal waters between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, an area known as the Rhode Island-Massachusetts Wind Energy Area.

Van Beek said the project likely means assembly, welding and diving among other jobs for Rhode Island.

The Block Island site abuts two other large offshore wind projects. Denmark-based DONG Energy recently filed an application with ISO New England to build 800 megawatts of wind power in the designated wind area. Offshore MW, owned by Danish-based Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, is in partnership with Vineyard Power Cooperative to build a wind farm in the energy zone. Both projects are likely to connect to the mainland at Brayton Point in Somerset, Mass.

On Aug. 1, Massachusetts set a goal of developing 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind projects by 2027.


Join the Discussion

View Comments

Recent Comments

  1. It’s clear that 20% of DeepWater Wind has mechanically failed to all but project proponents and cheerleaders who aren’t on the hook for 60% of project construction cost.

  2. Rhode Island Offshore Wind Turbine Construction
    Rampant mainstream media bias for the installation of onshore wind turbines in Rhode Island and Massachusetts has caused major health and financial problems to electric rate users and residents living around those turbines.
    The media is facing a credibility problem with both onshore and offshore wind reporting. How will they produce stories about ocean wind turbine installations that will omit the financial costs of accidents. Today its not what you hear or read in the news its that you have to figure out what they leave out on purpose.
    The first US ocean wind project started in July of 2015 and almost a year and a half later only four out of five turbines will be operational.
    The offshore wind turbines are built near the last battle of World War II. The last battle was the sinking of the German submarine U-853 near Block Island, Rhode Island.
    In July of 2015 at the start of the Deepwater Wind ocean wind project they had a construction accident placing the first United States offshore ocean wind turbine project in Rhode Island in jeopardy. A barge caused damage to one of five wind turbine ocean wind turbine base.
    The five ocean wind turbine offshore Deepwater Wind project is a demonstration project .
    Electric ratepayers are expected to pay an above market price of over 400 million for Deepwater’s energy over the next twenty years
    The ocean wind turbine project was set to start this month but someone left a drill bit in one of the turbines, only four out of five wind turbines will operate.
    The project no matter how you cut it is suffering a twenty percent failure rate confirmed by the original barge accident and the drill bit damage.
    Deepwater Wind is facing a twenty percent failure rate in its business plan twice. The question is the construction has too high of a business failure rate. Anyone in the construction business or venture capitalist knows a twenty percent failure rate is unacceptable
    It’s abnormal to have a twenty percent failure in any type of business venture.
    If you take into account now the current accident rate with the offshore wind industry and combine it with the onshore health and financial fiasco it looks like we are all going to get coal in our stockings for Christmas.
    Rhode island has had its share of wind turbine failures.
    The Town of Portsmouth purchased a wind turbine that failed shortly after they purchased it in which taxpayers lost millions.
    Falmouth, Massachusetts is ground zero for poorly placed wind turbines in the United States.
    The land based wind projects in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island are a health and financial fiasco.
    The entire litigation costs in Falmouth have probably reached the purchase price of their first turbine with court action headed into 2017.
    Massachusetts residents in twenty one communities complain of a noise described as torture from the wind turbine noise.
    Massachusetts and Rhode Island politicians are going into to the ocean wind turbine business before cleaning up the mess left behind with the land based wind turbine health and financial fiasco
    In New Bedford, Massachusetts a 113 million dollar ocean wind turbine port was called complete two years ago with no rail link, no cranes and only a legal opening at the hurricane gates of 120 feet. The port remains unused with a 23 million dollar dredging lawsuit and one million cubic yards of PCB tainted material still needs to be dredged outside the hurricane gates. The current bond payments to taxpayers is $187,500.00 a month for 30 years.
    The Rhode Island five wind turbine project costs millions but it has not been disclosed how much the multiple accidents have cost or who will have to pay for delays.
    One way or another it looks like again Jill and Joe taxpayer will pay with their health and/or on their electric bills.
    The turbines were scheduled to start last month but were delayed for unknown reasons and the five wind turbine ocean wind project is failing to meet its target date.
    Maybe getting coal in your stocking for Christmas isn’t such a bad idea today

  3. A failure rate of 20% doesn’t sound too bad to me.

    There’s an interesting study from the UK looking at 350 offshore wind turbines
    of an undisclosed model over eight years of operation. The probability of a failure in each of three subsystems (blade pitch/hydraulics, "other", and generator) is close to one per year. I saved a summary graphic at – I don’t know if it will display here.

  4. I am unaffiliated with this project. Am I reading this right? BI residents currently pay 8.179 per kilowatt hour but soon they will be paying 3x that (24.4)? I must be reading this wrong, because all i’ve ever read is that BI residents are unhappy with their current electricity rates.

    • Hi, Chris – The rest of Rhode Island is paying 8.179 cents per kWh. And Deepwater Wind, the owner of the turbines, will get paid by National Grid 24.4 cents for the wind energy they generate. Block Island will pay a lot less for its power as they will be getting it from the mainland I believe at the 8 cent-rate. Block Island residents will also no longer pay a service charge for shipping the diesel fuel to the island. Hope that helps.

  5. Thanks for the update.
    I’m not so much bothered by the temporary failure of one turbine out of 5, (a "20% failure rate" sounds worse than it is on such a small number on a new project) but we have to be concerned about the cost of electricity produced being about triple the standard rate. Our high cost of electricity is already a burden for RI businesses and ratepayers, I cannot see how this is something to celebrate.

  6. Mr. Faulkner, Apparently no one spoke to many people on Block Island about this project. In general, this project was misrepresented from the start. If Block Island wanted lower power costs and more environmentally beneficial electricity, a micro grid was the answer for $20M. Now the residents of RI are paying a ridiculous subsidy to a Wall Street Hedge Fund, DE Shaw and all this has done is tied Block Island to ISO-New England. This was an inelegant solution at best. And please spare us about the Internet and how the fiber connections will make Internet better on BI. It will cost at least another $10M for that to happen and by then, it will be overtaken by less costly, more appropriate technology sized for the community. This has been pure politics and greed in a state that sees it all the time. Once again, RI residents have been fleeced by a well interconnect cadre of business and political interests, and that includes several from the Town of New Shoreham government.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.

Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.


We use cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalized content. View Cookie Settings