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Deepwater Wind has signed an agreement for Alstom to supply the Block Island Wind Farm with five Haliade 150-6 MW offshore wind turbines. Deepwater says the deal represents a pivotal point in the development of the 30 MW demonstration project, located off the coast of Block Island, R.I.

Originally, however, Deepwater Wind had signed a preferred-supplier contract with Siemens in 2011 for five of its 6 MW direct-drive machines. The agreement provided a window of exclusivity for the two parties to hammer out a deal. However, one did not materialize and the agreement expired at the end of 2012.

Jeff Grybowski, Deepwater's CEO, notes it was important that the developer signed with a provider of direct-drive turbine technology.

"We think direct-drive is where the U.S. offshore wind industry is headed," he explains.

Under the new supply contract, Deepwater Wind says it made an initial multi-million-dollar payment in December 2013 that allowed Alstom to begin the manufacturing process for the turbines. Grybowski adds that most of the blade units have already been manufactured. Deepwater expects all of the blades to be completed and delivered to the company at a warehouse in Europe in April.

“This agreement represents a giant leap forward for the Block Island Wind Farm, and the start of turbine construction just last month marked a major project milestone,” says Grybowski. “We’re thrilled to have a company as renowned as Alstom as our turbine partner.”

He adds, “When combined with engineering and permitting work we already completed, we’re confident this payment puts us significantly over the required five percent ‘safe harbor’ for the [federal investment tax credit.]”

The Haliade 150-6 MW turbine features Alstom's Pure Torque design and a 150-meter-diameter rotor. According to Deepwater, Alstom’s technology will provide a greater energy output than the developer had earlier anticipated. The companies expect the project’s capacity factor to exceed 47%, compared to initial projections of 40%. In addition, Deepwater says that, at 589 feet tall, the Haliade turbines will be about 10% - or roughly 70 feet - shorter than the developer’s maximum height allowance provided for in its permit filings. Moreover, the rotors and nacelles of the turbines will be smaller than the permitted maximums.

“We are pleased to be able to provide Deepwater Wind an efficient and powerful turbine that is an ideal match for their exciting project,” says Andy Geissbuehler, general manager of Alstom Wind North America. “We look forward to continuing to participate in the development of the offshore wind industry in the U.S. by working with visionary companies like Deepwater Wind.” Under a separate agreement, Alstom will also provide long-term service and maintenance responsibilities for the turbines.

Deepwater says its partnership with Alstom will create a number of local jobs and boost economic activity in Rhode Island. In addition to operations and management positions the developer will fill to support the project, Alstom intends to base its long-term service operations in the state and to perform pre-installation work in a local harbor. Furthermore, Alstom will investigate opportunities to execute assembly activities in Rhode Island.

However, an Alstom representative declined to give specifics.

“At this point, there is no firm timeframe and or locations in mind,” says an Alstom spokesperson. “Those issues will come together as the project advances.”

The Block Island project could help Deepwater realize plans for a much larger offshore wind farm. Having won the U.S.' first-ever competitive lease auction for renewable energy development in federal waters last year, Deepwater is working to develop the Deepwater Wind Energy Center, a wind project with up to 1 GW of capacity, off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Photo caption: Alstom’s Haliade 150-6 MW offshore wind turbine in Belwind, Belgium. Photo courtesy of Alstom.

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