STRONG WINDS: A lift boat off Block Island does core sampling for Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm in 2009. Energy experts say Rhode Island could become a hub for the offshore wind industry.
COURTESY MONTCO OFFSHORE INC.
By Rhonda J. Miller PBN Staff Writer
Once Deepwater Wind’s proposed five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm gets closer to the turbines-in-the-water phase, Rhode Island could begin to develop as a hub for the U.S. offshore wind industry and bring long-promised jobs and manufacturing, according to national and international businesses in the supply chain.
“If this project goes through, there would be quite a demand and I could see opening a branch office in Providence to serve the Eastern Seaboard,” said Beau Marshall, business-development manager for the Salt Lake City-based company DOSECC Exploration Services LLC.
“It would be more cost-effective, wherever our operations are, to set up a satellite office in the area,” said Marshall, whose company was among more than 60 exhibitors at the American Wind Energy Association’s 2013 Offshore Windpower Conference and Exhibition held at the R.I. Convention Center in Providence Oct. 22-23.
“We’re looking at this whole Northeast market,” said DOSECC President Dennis Nielson. DOSECC’s work is done in the early stages of offshore wind farms, so the company is looking ahead to potential work on the 200-turbine Deepwater Wind Energy Center in federal waters off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which is in the early stages of development.
The interest DOSECC has in working in Rhode Island began in 2009 when the company was contracted, along with the Louisiana-based lift-boat company Montco Offshore, to do core samples at the site off Block Island planned for the five-turbine wind farm.
DOSECC partnered with the Louisiana company, adding drilling equipment to the vessel for the sampling.
“We did the geotechnical work in 2009 for analysis and data on the hardness of the soil. We gave it to engineers to determine what kind of structure will support a wind turbine,” said Marshall. The engineering work on the project was done by Providence-based GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., according to Diane Baxter, the company’s project manager for the 2009 core sampling.
“That was during the investigation phase,” said Baxter, who attended the conference. “The drilling project took about four weeks and we had engineers on the vessel 24/7.”
The pace of offshore wind development in the U.S. has been slower than expected, said Montco Offshore Inc. Chief Technology Officer Joseph Orgeron.
“We brought our lift boat around from the Gulf of Mexico to Block Island in 2009 and were told to be ready to install turbines in 2013,” said Orgeron, whose company had a joint exhibit with DOSECC at the conference. “Here it is 2013 and we’re told we might be installing turbines in 2016. Offshore wind just hasn’t happened yet. Producing energy offshore has three times the cost of producing onshore wind energy.”