Deepwater sees Q4 2016 pilot start

Deepwater Wind’s 30MW pilot Block Island offshore wind project will complete several important milestones this year that will help lead to full commercial operation in fourth quarter 2016, chief executive Jeff Grybowski tells Recharge.

Block Island, to be located in state waters off Rhode Island, is vying with the much larger Cape Wind project to become the first US offshore wind farm.

Key upcoming milestones include:

*Receipt of 15, 73.5-metre blades for five Alstom Haliade 150-6MW turbines at a ceremony later this month in Denmark. “This is a pretty exciting prospect. In that regard, construction has already begun on Block Island,” says Grybowski, who will lead a Deepwater delegation to participate in the handover.

*Deepwater will issue a request for proposals in the coming months for both the cabling system and foundation fabrication.

*Financial close for the project is targeted for the fourth quarter. DE Shaw, a hedge fund that owns Deepwater, has the equity in place to finance the project, Grybowski says.

“In the next few months we will formalize a bank process on the debt side. We’ve had quite a number of discussions with financial institutions that are very active in the offshore market in Europe. I would say we have a very strong level of interest from banks. We’ll start locking down committments. We feel quite good about the level of interest to date,” he comments.

Deepwater estimates project cost “north of $250m” with about $200m for construction. The balance is development costs, interest on bank loans, financing fees and other expenses.

Grybowksi expects in-the-water construction of turbine foundations to begin in fall 2015, with cabling and turbine erection in spring and summer of 2016.  

Deepwater is leasing property at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, as a staging area for the larger components. Plans call for the components to arrive by vessel – most from Europe. Pre-assembly work will be done on the turbines before they are loaded on to barges for the roughly 30-mile tow to the installation site. Set-up work will also need to be done there for turbine foundations. “We need a fairly large and robust logistics and assembly port,’ he says.

The developers has a 20-year power purchase agreement with utility National Grid starting at 24.4 cents/kWh in the first year, with a 3.5% annual increase after then.