B.I. electrical system transfers to Deepwater’s Block Island Wind Farm

BLOCK ISLAND Power Co. line worker Jim Stockman closes the circuit breaker, re-energizing the substation. On Monday, the Block Island Power Co. shut down its diesel-generating plant to transfer the island’s electrical system to Deepwater Wind LLC’s Block Island Wind Farm and National Grid’s Sea2Shore submarine cable. / COURTESY BLOCK ISLAND POWER CO.
BLOCK ISLAND Power Co. line worker Jim Stockman closes the circuit breaker, re-energizing the substation. On Monday, the Block Island Power Co. shut down its diesel-generating plant to transfer the island’s electrical system to Deepwater Wind LLC’s Block Island Wind Farm and National Grid’s Sea2Shore submarine cable. / COURTESY BLOCK ISLAND POWER CO.

BLOCK ISLAND – In the pre-dawn hours on Monday, Block Island went dark – on purpose.

The Block Island Power Co. shut down its diesel-generating plant to transfer the island’s electrical system to Deepwater Wind LLC’s 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm and National Grid’s Sea2Shore submarine cable. The cable delivers the output from the wind farm project to the mainland grid.

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When the lights were turned back on by the power company employees, the energy was provided by the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, which is approximately 3 miles off the coast of Block Island, as well as the mainland grid.

“It’s only fitting that Block Island has made history as the first town in the United States to be powered by offshore wind,” Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement. “It’s our honor to celebrate this historic milestone with Block Islanders. We’re confident that the example Block Island has set will inspire communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard to chart their own path toward a renewable future.”

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According to a news release from the Block Island Power Co., more than a decade ago, customers began voicing concerns about the high cost of electrical costs. Fuel for the generators drove electrical costs to more than 60 cents per kilowatt/hour.

Nearly 1 million gallons of diesel fuel is expected to be saved annually through the wind farm project, the release said.

“National Grid is honored to be part of this landmark event that benefits the people of Block Island while providing a new source of clean, renewable energy to our mainland customers,” Timothy F. Horan, president and chief operating officer of National Grid in Rhode Island, said in a statement. “This collaborative project between National Grid, Deepwater Wind, Block Island Power Company, elected officials, regulators and the people of Block Island shows what can be accomplished when all parties work for the common good.”

Block Island Power Co. has approximately 2,000 customers, and they should see immediate relief in their electric bills, according to Interim Block Island Power Co. President Jeffrey Wright.

The fuel cost adjustment charge of 16.82 cents/kWh in April will drop to 12.44 cents/kWh and be known as a standard offer and transmission charge. While prices have dropped in recent months, the average fuel cost adjustment since 2012 has been 25.6 cents/kWh, according to the utility.

Wright added that wholesale energy prices are at historic lows.

“To have the opportunity to secure some long-term contracts for our customers provides price stability and allows customers to budget month to month, rather than have their electric bills tied to volatile diesel fuel prices,” Wright said in prepared remarks. “Our power contract, that went into effect today, will take us into the fall of 2018. Between now and then we will monitor the regional energy markets and seek out even better opportunities that will provide our customers with predictable electric rates.”

Town of New Shoreham First Warden Ken Lacoste said the construction of the wind farm and undersea cables was a “monumental engineering effort.”

“On Block Island, where the wind once powered gristmills and filled the sails of the fishing fleet, electric power will now be generated with each rotation of the giant turbine blades. The nature of our energy supply has taken a giant step forward and in doing so sets the pace for other offshore wind development,” Lacoste said.

The release said the project has an additional benefit – the town now has access to fiber optic cable built into the Sea2Shore Cable, and town officials are researching how best to make use of the high-speed connection to the mainland.

Lori Stabile is the PBN Web Editor. 

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