Block Island Wind Farm Project Advances with Cutting-Edge Marine Surveys, Expanded Team

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3D map of the sea floor where the wind farm and transmission cable will be installed.

Deepwater Wind today announced two important steps in the development of the Block Island Wind Farm: The start of a month-long marine survey off the shores of Block Island and the expansion of its project team.

The multi-million dollar marine survey will involve several vessels equipped with the latest technology, and experts from a range of specialized fields, in order to create a 3D map of the sea floor where the wind farm and transmission cable will be installed. In addition, Deepwater Wind is adding Robert Billington, a marine construction veteran, to lead the project’s construction team. Bryan Wilson, Deepwater Wind’s liaison to Block Island, will be promoted to Manager of the project, overseeing on-island operations and public engagement.

Marine Surveys

This week, Deepwater Wind began a series of intensive marine surveys as part of the company’s ongoing, comprehensive environmental assessment to support development of the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm – a project that remains on track to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm – and the associated cable (the Block Island Transmission System) that will connect the island for the first time to the mainland electric grid.

The marine survey, along with final data collection and permit application efforts, represent more than a $5-million investment by Deepwater Wind in the project over the coming months. Deepwater Wind plans to submit permit applications to federal and state agencies in the first quarter of 2012. Three vessels equipped with state-of-the-art scientific equipment are berthed on Block Island to support the seven-day-a-week effort over the next month.

“We’re embarking on a very important step to advance the Block Island Wind Farm,” said Deepwater Wind CEO William M. Moore. “The lessons we learn from this effort will allow us to micro-site the wind turbine foundations within our project area and also provide us with the data we need to precisely delineate the exact route of the transmission cable to the mainland.”

The team of up to 12 surveyors – including trained engineers, biologists, a marine archaeologist, and a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe – is working to collect geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and benthic (sea floor) data. High-tech equipment such as sonar, depth finders and magnetometers will assist the team in its data collection.

The purpose is to collect a plethora of data about the sea floor and the layers of soil below the sea floor to help determine the precise locations for the turbine foundations; the cable that will connect the Block Island Wind Farm to Block Island; and the cable that will connect the island to the mainland grid.

Deepwater Wind is also assessing whether the planned locations of the wind farm and the cables will need to be re-routed if obstacles, such as undersea boulders, shipwrecks, evidence of Native American settlements or sensitive benthic habitats, are discovered.

Once the survey is complete, Deepwater Wind will have a precise, 3D image of the sea floor and the sub-layers several meters below. Later this fall, Deepwater Wind will conduct surveys of the planned onshore route of the cables on both Block Island and the mainland. The cables need to interconnect with existing Block Island Power Company and National Grid transmission facilities.

Meanwhile, Deepwater Wind continues to collect wind, avian and bat data from the radar systems and meteorological mast it had previously deployed on Block Island.

Expanding the Team

Deepwater Wind also announced today that it has named Robert Billington as Construction Project Director for the Block Island Wind Farm project, and named Bryan Wilson as Manager of the project.

Billington, a civil engineer, has more than three decades of experience in the oil and gas industries in the United States, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He joins the company’s Rhode Island-based team and will oversee all the planning, logistics, procurement and management of the assembly and construction of the Block Island Wind Farm.

Billington, a Texas native, most recently worked for Callon Petroleum, of Houston, as the Estrada Field project topsides manager, overseeing the offshore hookup of the sub-sea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico to Conoco’s Magnolia platform. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan.

Wilson, a year-round Block Island resident, has been Deepwater Wind’s on-island liaison since 2009. He’s a former member of the New Shoreham Town Council and a number of island boards and commissions. He has owned and operated ZMA Design/Build Inc., a design and construction business on Block Island, since 1998. He is also a volunteer firefighter/EMT for Block Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue.

Wilson will now oversee on-island operations and logistics, as well as lead the project’s public engagement efforts.

“Bob brings decades of project management experience to our Block Island team,” Moore said. “His experience and leadership, combined with Bryan’s expanded role on the project, will provide key support as we continue to ramp up the permitting and move into the pre-construction phase of both the Block Island Wind Farm and Block Island Transmission System.”

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