National Grid’s installation of more than 20 miles of transmission cable from Scarborough Beach through state and federal waters to its connection point at the Fred Benson Town Beach is underway. That’s according to National Grid spokesman David Graves, who told The Block Island Times on Tuesday that the first phase of installing the power company’s Block Island Wind Farm cable transmission system is progressing at Scarborough Beach and has begun on Block Island.
“We’re pleased to have started construction, and very much look forward to what the next several months will bring,” said Graves. “Work is progressing according to plan at Scarborough Beach. We anticipate work at the new Dillon’s Corner substation in Narragansett, to start at some point in the next couple of weeks. The work at the existing Wakefield substation is minor inside the fence line work.”
The cable will run four miles from Scarborough Beach to the Wakefield substation where it will be connected to National Grid’s distribution system. On Block Island, the six-inch thick submarine cable will come ashore at Crescent Beach in April, installed 10-feet beneath the surface of the beach, be rerouted to Beach Avenue, and then subsequently be connected to National Grid’s new substation on the Block Island Power Company’s (BIPCo) Ocean Avenue property.
At the Monday, Feb. 1 Town Council meeting, Second Warden Norris Pike said it was “impressive” witnessing National Grid’s horizontal drilling process on Sunday at Scarborough Beach.
“Yesterday afternoon I took the opportunity to check out National Grid’s construction at Scarborough Beach,” said Pike. “National Grid has started drilling for the cable to Block Island. They were going full bore yesterday afternoon. It was pretty impressive.”
Pike said that the corner of the Scarborough Beach parking lot “where the cable connection is going to be made was all fenced off. They had a whole bunch of trucks, drilling rods and a fairly impressive horizontal drilling machine” operating on the property. “So they’re headed our way. It was nice to see.”
Town Manager Nancy Dodge said, “The fencing that is being erected at the Fred Benson Town Beach parking lot is Block Island’s side of the project. The whole north end of the parking lot” will be fenced off and based on “the agreement they have with us (the town) they need to be out of there by May 1.”
Graves told The Times that, “The fence is going up in anticipation of construction that will start around the end of the month. Mobilization of the equipment to Block Island for the start of cofferdam construction on Crescent Beach has begun. This includes setting up of the work site and installation of sound mitigation materials. Fencing, both snow and chain link, is being installed at the beach in preparation of construction activities.”
National Grid is utilizing a temporary cofferdam, which is a watertight enclosure pumped dry to permit construction work below the waterline, while performing the cable installation work at Crescent Beach. “Our work at the beach is being done by LS/Caldwell Marine/Environmental Crossings,” said Graves.
“In the next week, we will begin installation of cofferdam for the cable from the wind farm, which includes work on the beach and nearby beach parking lot,” noted Graves. “Toward the end of February, we will begin the cofferdam installation for the cable from Narragansett. Horizontal directional drilling for the cable from the wind farm to Crescent Beach is expected to begin in mid-March, followed by drilling for the cable from Narragansett in April. The entire drilling process should take roughly one month to complete.”
Graves said that cofferdam related equipment would be situated on Crescent Beach itself, while the horizontal drilling equipment will reside in the nearby Town Beach parking lot.
Graves noted that National Grid is in the process of beginning construction of a substation on the BIPCo Ocean Avenue property. The substations that are being built for the 30-megawatt, five turbine wind farm pilot project are designed to connect the wind farm to National Grid’s mainland electrical grid system.
National Grid explained that a substation is a component of an electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system. Substations are small house-like structures that convert, or transform, electrical voltage from high to low, or the reverse, and perform any of several other important functions.
“We anticipate that site work will begin on the substation this month,” said Graves. “As we progress with the prep work, we will work with the New Shoreham Building Official to secure a building permit for the substation’s switchgear/control house building. The substation construction schedule is still being finalized; all project components remain on track for completion before the end of the calendar year.”
The National Grid-owned and operated transmission cable system is part of the $290 million Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Farm pilot project that is scheduled to be operational in the fall of 2016.
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