Rhode Island’s Block Island silenced their diesel generating plant in the pre-dawn hours this morning. According to an announcement from Block Island Power Co., the Island went dark momentarily in a well-planned sequence of high-voltage switching intended to shut down the diesel generators. Company employees then systematically turned the lights back, this time powered by energy provided by the nation’s first off-shore wind project and the mainland grid. The silence is symbolic of saving nearly one million gallons of diesel fuel annually.
The early morning transfer of the Island’s electrical grid was the final step in a process that began more than a decade ago, with customer’s concerns peaking in 2008 when the high cost of fuel for the generators drove electrical costs to over 60 cents per kilowatt/hour.
Current Block Island Power Company Board Chair, past Town Manager of New Shoreham and long-time Block Island resident Nancy Dodge remembers those days well. “It was impossible to effectively budget for the town’s energy expenses when fuel prices were so unpredictable and more than half of the bill for every town building was attributable to the fuel adjustment. That was impeding needed spending in other critical areas,” said Dodge.
The idea of running a submarine cable turned to reality when the Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Project was proposed. The project, which would become the nation’s first offshore wind farm, needed a connection to the mainland grid that could be used to deliver its output to the residents of Rhode Island.
The cable to Block Island, which was built and will be owned and operated by National Grid, was christened by National Grid as the Sea2Shore Project when the company bought the cable rights in 2015. Without the Block Island Wind Farm Project, the cable would still be out of reach for Block Island.
“It’s only fitting that Block Island has made history as the first town in the United States to be powered by offshore wind,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “It’s our honor to celebrate this historic milestone with Block Islanders. We’re confident that the example Block Island has set will inspire communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard to chart their own path toward a renewable future.”
“National Grid is honored to be part of this landmark event that benefits the people of Block Island while providing a new source of clean, renewable energy to our mainland customers,” said Timothy F. Horan, President & COO of National Grid in Rhode Island. “This collaborative project between National Grid, Deepwater Wind, Block Island Power Company, elected officials, regulators and the people of Block Island shows what can be accomplished when all parties work for the common good.”
In addition to having access to the Block Island Wind Farm output, the cable presents the Block Island Power Company customers an opportunity everyone had had been waiting on for decades. At last, the approximate 2,000 electric customers on Block Island will now have access to lower cost, cleaner and stable whole energy markets.
“Wholesale energy prices are at historic lows right now and to have the opportunity to secure some long-term contracts for our customers provides price stability and allows customers to budget month to month, rather than have their electric bills tied to volatile diesel fuel prices,” said Interim Block Island Power Company President, Jeffery Wright. “Our power contract, that went into effect today, will take us into the fall of 2018. Between now and then we will monitor the regional energy markets and seek out even better opportunities that will provide our customers with predictable electric rates.”
Block Island electric ratepayers will see immediate relief in their electric bills. Read more here.
Filed Under: News, Offshore wind, Projects