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Eastern Millwrights Keep Historic Wind Farm Project on Point
4/11/2016

Just a few years from now, Rhode Island’s Block Island will be powered by an offshore wind farm 16 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Getting to that point requires a multitude of professionals collaborating on who, what, when, where, why, and how to logically, efficiently, and most of all – safely – reach that goal.

The project at hand is the Block Island Wind Farm – the first U.S. offshore wind farm in our nation’s history that is establishing its footprint 2.5 nautical miles southeast of Block Island.

The five-turbine, 30-megawatt project will feature General Electric Haliade 150 6-MW turbines that should be installed in late summer 2016 with commercial operations starting before the end of the year. The project is expected to produce more than 125,000-megawatt hours annually.  

Right in the thick of things are millwrights from the Eastern Millwright Regional Council (EMRC). They are working for General Electric and Deepwater Wind at a temporary manufacturing facility established by GE at ProvPort in Providence, R.I. – one of just two deep-water ports in New England.

Last fall, the first set of five, 95-foot-tall tower sections arrived by ship at ProvPort. Millwrights are prepping the five turbines by assembling the foundation pieces and uprighting the first tower sections. Each turbine tower consists of three sections, and will approach 270 feet and 440 tons when assembled. After completion, the steel tower sections will be loaded onto a barge for offshore installation.

Eastern Millwrights are involved in the assembly of the towers. They are installing hydraulic pumps for cooling systems for all of the electrical transformers, and connecting all of the hydraulic piping associated with those pumps and transformers. They also installed temporary hydraulic equipment to move the equipment on the decks in the towers into place.

“The millwrights have a very good knowledge of installing the piping and making piping connections with the specific gaskets, hanger, and hydraulic pumps,” said Gerry Lagesse, general superintendent for Hart Engineering Corporation.

“The personnel that EMRC have sent Hart Engineering have been excellent and have met the highest standards of GE and Hart Engineering,” Lagesse added.

Millwright leaders recognized the need for skilled, productive labor for the wind power industry and developed a training plan to specifically meet the demand for the unique professionals.

“Eastern Millwrights posses a deep understanding of the technology, tooling, machinery and maintenance needs to first install and then keep wind equipment efficiently operating,” said EMRC Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Bob Loubier.

“The foundation of that training is based on EMRC’s long history of excellence in gas and steam turbine installation and maintenance. Because of that experience and customized training, Eastern Millwrights are performing safely and productively in the wind industry.”

“The training and the work experience that EMRC provides to its members is what enables them to meet the standards that this job requires. As far as safety, the Eastern Millwrights have conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism. We have had no incidents on this project to speak of, which is in line with Hart’s very high safety standards and program,” Lagesse added.