Photography courtesy Gulf Island Fabrication


Construction on the nation’s first offshore wind project began in mid-July, as steel went into the water off the coast of Rhode Island. But the steel foundations for the Block Island Wind Farm were made in Louisiana: They were designed by Keystone Engineering in Metairie and, as shown here, fabricated by Gulf Island Fabrication in Houma.


Block Island Wind Farm will be a 30 MW, five-turbine project in state waters three miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Developed by Deepwater Wind, the wind farm is expected to save local residents up to 40% on energy bills, add $42 million in net benefits to Rhode Island’s economy, and lower carbon pollution by 40,000 tons per year.


At 589 feet above sea level, the turbines that rest on these foundations will be among the tallest in the world. The project, scheduled to be online in 2016, is expected to power about 17,000 homes.


Each steel latticework foundation was assembled in two main sections: the jacket, which measures 110 feet tall and will be secured to the ocean floor with piles, and the deck, which stands 60 feet tall and will sit on top of the jacket. A wind turbine will be bolted onto a cylinder in the center of the deck.


“Keystone has played an instrumental role as the foundation designer for several offshore wind projects due to our extensive experience with offshore oil and gas structures,” says Keystone Safety Director Josh Thibodeaux. “A lot of that expertise is particularly valuable for offshore wind farms.”


Gulf Island is a Houston-based company that has worked on some of the largest oil platforms in the world.


The foundations’ journey by barge from Houma to Block Island took about 15 days and covered 1,800 miles.


Thibodeaux says several other wind projects have received funding from the Department of Energy for design and fabrication, and Keystone hopes to do the designs for as many of them as possible. “We’re hoping that those wind farms that are designed down here follow the same route that Block Island did, and get Gulf Island or other fabricators with similar experience in oil and gas down in this area to do the fabrication for those as well.”