Monday, May 4, 2015

Ocean Energy Wind Farm

NORTH KINGSTOWN — A radio is playing somewhere in the vast warehouse, but the music is drowned out by a noisy symphony of hammering, welding and grinding.

These are the sounds of the first offshore wind farm in the United States being built.

Here, inside a hangar-size building tucked in a corner of the Quonset Business Park, workers with Specialty Diving Services are making parts of the massive steel foundations for the five wind turbines that Providence-based Deepwater Wind plans to install in ocean waters off Block Island.

The work marks the start of construction in Rhode Island on a project that has been years in the making and will take another year and a half to complete.

The main pieces of the latticework foundations are being built in Louisiana by a company with long experience in the Gulf of Mexico's offshore oil and gas industry. No business in Rhode Island has that type of ability, but Specialty Diving, a Quonset-based marine construction firm that builds bridges and piers, is more than capable of fabricating the custom-made, heavy-duty ladders, rails and platforms that will be attached to the foundations.

The job is not especially difficult for the company's workers, but they are playing a key role in a much larger project that is far from routine.

On a recent morning, amid wisps of smoke and the oddly pleasant smell of burning metal, iron worker Don Rosbotton uses an arc welder to join together two pieces of a circular "flange access platform" that other construction workers will stand on when they bolt Deepwater's turbines in place sometime in 2016. When he finishes the bead, the 55-year-old from South Kingstown wields a pick to knock slag out of the joint and then finishes it off with an electric grinder.

With 29 years in the trade, Rosbotton has worked on the Newport and Jamestown bridges and was a foreman on the project to build the new transportation hub at T.F. Green Airport a few years ago, but the significance of this job is not lost on him.

"I've been on some great projects," he says, "but this is different."Article