Rhode Island Begins Construction on First Offshore Wind Farm


The nation’s first offshore wind farm will be off the coast of Rhode Island, and building got underway this morning. Rhode Island is installing five wind turbines off the shore of Block Island.

Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island-based wind energy company, will build out the wind farm, which is expected to cost $290 million. Financing for the project is provided by Societe Generale of Paris, France, and KeyBank National Association of Cleveland, Ohio.

The financing from Societe Generale and KeyBank is in addition to more than $70 million in equity funding already provided by Deepwater Wind’s existing owners, principally an entity of the D.E. Shaw Group.

The project will yield 30 megawatts of electric power, which will go to the 17,000 homes on Block Island with the remainder being transmitted to homes on the mainland by cable.

Gulf Island Fabrication of Houma, Louisiana, will build the farm’s five steel jacket foundations. Rhode Island-based Specialty Diving Services is expected to begin additional fabrication work on components of the foundation substructures at Quonset, Rhode Island.

Alstom will supply five Haliade 150 6 MW offshore wind turbines for the project and has already completed the fabrication in Denmark of all 15 blades for the project. The turbines will be the tallest in the world.

Today marks the “steel in the water” breaking, where the foundations will start being laid. The project will be in-service in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“We are on the cusp of bringing offshore wind from theory to reality in the U.S. We’re incredibly proud of our position at the forefront of the U.S. offshore wind industry,” Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement. “We’ve brought together some of the best American and European expertise to build an outstanding project and finance team. We’re poised to launch a new American clean-tech industry, and it all starts here with our work on the Block Island Wind Farm.”

According to the Ocean Conservancy, the location of the Block Island project was informed by Rhode Island’s Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP). The Ocean SAMP is a state-led ocean planning process that brings together citizens, fishermen, sailors, conservationists and other interested stakeholders to ensure that the waters surrounding the state are available to all. The project was able to move forward with a broad-based level of support from this group.

Earlier this year, Virginia was awarded the first wind energy research lease in federal waters from the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), as CivSource reported at the time. The lease will allow the state to explore how to build wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean. That lease differs slightly from the Rhode Island project in that the Block Island Wind Farm is still within state water areas.

Dominion Virginia Power will be the lease operator for Virginia for the next 30 years. With the lease, Dominion will be able to construct and operate the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), a grid-connected, offshore wind demonstration project consisting of two Alstom 6-megawatt turbines to be located approximately 24 nautical miles east of the Virginia Beach shoreline.