Energy

Block Island Wind Turbines Motionless Due to ‘Routine Summer Maintenance’

Four of the Block Island Wind Farm’s five turbines have been shutdown for much of the summer. (Ørsted)

The wind turbines off the coast of Block Island — known to many as the crown jewel of the burgeoning U.S. offshore wind energy industry — have gone still.

The Block Island Wind Farm turbines, 3 miles southeast of Block Island, have been mostly in motion since their launch in 2016. But over the past several weeks, fishermen and islanders have noticed the 73-meter-long blades of four of the five turbines remain frozen in place.

The Block Island Wind Farm’s five 328-foot-tall wind turbines comprise the first operational offshore wind facility in the United States. The turbines were manufactured by General Electric subsidiary GE Renewable Energy, while the wind facility was still under the ownership of Deepwater Wind. In 2018, Deepwater Wind was acquired by Danish multinational utility company Ørsted, putting the Block Island Wind Farm in the hands of the world’s largest offshore wind developer.

Chris Raia, senior account executive with Providence-based public relations firm Duffy & Shanley, which represents Ørsted, said the turbines were shut down for the repair of “stress lines identified by GE in the turbines.”

“We put four turbines on pause as a precautionary measure and carried out a full risk assessment, which showed the turbines are structurally sound,” Raia said. “We expect to complete those repairs and all maintenance in the next few weeks as scheduled.”

He noted the repairs were in line with routine maintenance, which often occurs during the “optimal” summer months.

Concern over the structural integrity of the five Haliade 150-6MW turbines started in 2015, shortly after construction began. A September 2015 report by Houston-based ABS Group, a technical advisor and design verification consultant hired to monitor the facility’s construction, detailed broken testing equipment, unused moisture-extraction ovens, a dearth of documentation, and unverified welding practices.

Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council board members at the time described the practices as “very concerning.”

In 2019, reports emerged that a high-voltage undersea cable linking the Block Island Wind Farm to the mainland was surfacing on Block Island beaches. National Grid, which owns the power line joining New Shoreham to Narragansett, said line reburial would cost $30 million. Repairs were incomplete and paused entering this summer’s tourism season.

Bonnie Brady, board member of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance and executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, which opposed the project, worries that issues during the turbines’ construction, including the welding incongruencies, have surfaced.

Brady said she has received reports from numerous fishermen regarding work being performed on the turbines. These secondhand accounts claim workers in hazmat suits were hanging from turbine blades and a brown substance was seen on the turbines.

Jeffery Wright, president of the Block Island Power Co., said questions coming in from residents and tourists regarding the stationary turbines have recently increased “about 300 percent.”

“We notice them shut down from time to time,” he said. It’s not an unusual occurrence, though he said this summer’s shutdowns have stretched a little longer than normal.

The facility is estimated to produce about 125,000 megawatt-hours annually, enough to power about 17,000 homes. Wright said New Shoreham has experienced no depletion of its power supply in recent months. The island is connected to mainland power supplies via submarine cables. On-island solar panels also contribute to a stable energy supply, he said.

“Our lights are still on,” Wright said.

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  1. Investigative reporting would start with the secondhand reports of "Hazmat suits", where they, or were they standard work uniforms? Throwing this unsubstantiated statement out is "FOXish".

  2. No 0ne thing by itself is going to save life on this planet, wind is doing more than Solar, but both have enormous capability to grow, and other forms of renewable energy are coming on stream also.
    The understanding of Carbon Drawdown, through planting forests and fast increases in Biochar, is also necessary, and we still see increases in decreasing consumption.

  3. Tucson Az is producing 267MW from mostly solar right now and only 2.3MW from wind for a total of 22.1% of our needs, also right now. The sun doesn’t shine at night but here in the southwest, its what we have. Phoenix has 3.9GW of nuclear. The answer to our energy needs is YES, not wind, solar, nuclear, grid storage or even not coal. We need a diverse energy mix to avoid Texas blackouts and California brownouts because if our transmission lines and substations from other places heat up with excess demand and fail, we end up in cold dark homes and people die. It costs more to maintain parallel reliability and peaking power gas turbines, diesel generators but in the end, its cheaper and safer than a cold dark or hot roasting house. We can’t put a coat on or another log on the fire to survive a 116F degree summer heat wave that lasts 4-6 days in June and never drops below 100. Support your producers but encourage them to pursue a diverse flexible supply.

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