Experts look at the future of offshore wind

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:15am
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The future of offshore wind in New England was the topic of an online discussion by a group of experts titled “Building a New Era of Offshore Wind.” The panel featured experts in the offshore wind industry from Tufts University, the Brattle Group, and the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance, who shared what they see as the future of offshore wind transmission cables and fisheries in the United States.

Ed Hines, professor at Tufts University School of Engineering, has more than 20 years of experience in the offshore wind field. He and the others agreed that offshore wind projects will play an increasing role in energy production.

Hines noted the increase in wind power generation since 2016, and the simultaneous decrease in power generated by oil, coal, and nuclear power plants due to plants going offline in New England. However, land-based wind farms have decreased their production as well, said Hines.

“In 2016, you can see proposed offshore wind farms growing up to 2020… Land-based [wind farms] has shrunk,” said Hines.

The B.I. Wind Farm, operated by Ørsted and developed by Deepwater Wind, is America’s first offshore wind farm: five turbines produce 30 megawatts of power. The wind farm is located three miles off Block Island, and began operation in December 2016.

The B.I Wind Farm is projected to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tons each year, as stated on Ørsted’s website.

The panel members agreed how crucial offshore wind farms are in reducing carbon footprint, and how to best harness the future of wind power off New England’s coast.

“We only have one ocean, and one chance to get this right,” said Hines.

Update on reburial of cables

The B.I. Wind Farm currently has sections of its two cables that need to be reburied. In March 2020, Interim Town Manager Jim Kern and Facilities Manager Sam Bird met with representatives from National Grid to ensure that the project to rebury the two transmission cables would stay on schedule.

Bird recently provided an update on the status and projected timeline of the cable project.

“Jim and I have been in weekly touch with National Grid and Ørsted as the plans for the reburial of the cable are progressing. It will be a large and fairly complicated project and involves a lot of planning, which is ongoing. In short, the project is still on track. The plan remains to horizontally directional drill from the beach parking lot to a quarter mile or more offshore, thread a new section of cable through the drill bore, and splice it to the existing cable well offshore. The H.D.D. bore will be 30 feet or more below the surface at the water’s edge, thus eliminating the chance of it emerging again,” said Bird.

Bird noted “the schedule continues to be to complete the work prior to next June 2021. All indications are that Grid and Ørsted are on track for that schedule.”

“This will be a big project but the disruption for the island will be minimal and the reassurance of having the cable deeply buried will be great to have,” added Bird.

Ørsted has said that it will pay for its reburial. National Grid has said that it will socialize the cost of reburying its transmission cable.