Wind farm cables cause headaches in Rhode Island

In June 2018, about one year ago, National Grid proposed a buoy-flanked “no-anchor zone” to mark a section of exposed cable during the summer boating season.

The no-anchor zone was supposed to be a temporary solution, but now it looks as if the effort to rebury the cable as well as the wind farm cable that also became exposed will take another two years.

National Grid’s sea2shore 34,500-volt cable connects the island to the mainland and includes fiber optic cable for broadband Internet access on the island. It was supposed to be buried 4 to 6 feet under the seabed when it was installed in 2016. National Grid claims it was unable to meet that requirement after its technicians encountered hard seabed off Fred Benson Town Beach.

The problem got more complicated when the Ørsted (then-Deepwater Wind) cable that transmits wind-generated electricity from the wind farm to the island also became exposed in August 2018. Crews were seen working to move sand from the beach to lay over about 10 feet of cable that connect the farm’s five wind turbines to Block Island.

Ørsted purchased Deepwater Wind, which owned the Block Island wind farm, in the fall of 2018.

In December, Ørsted and National Grid collected information with a remotely operated vehicle to map the seafloor. In January 2019, they continued survey work by analyzing the soil and terrain around the exposed cables.

“Those results suggested that they need to go back to cable redesign,” Laura Dwyer, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, told the Block Island Times. “We have another meeting with them in August to make sure they’re on track. They are talking about splicing their cables offshore, and then directionally drilling, as we suggested the first time, and installing two new manholes” in the beach parking lot.

Cable replacement and splicing is projected to be completed by spring 2021.

In the meantime, steer clear of the buoy markers.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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