Flatiron to help build offshore wind farm

Flatiron Construction Corp., a Firestone-based construction and engineering firm, has been selected to serve as project manager for the first commercial wind farm to be built offshore of the United States.

Flatiron Construction is part of the joint-venture team that will build the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, off the Massachusetts coast. The Cape Wind project will consist of 130 wind turbines and will produce up to 420 megawatts of energy, according to Cape Wind Associates, Cape Wind’s developer.

Cape Wind is not publicly disclosing the cost of the project, but the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in 2010 estimated it would cost about $2.5 billion to build.

Cape Wind expects to begin construction in 2013 and could be finished two and a half years after work starts, Cape Wind Associates communications director Mark Rodgers said.

While Flatiron Construction has a lot of experience managing large and complex design-build projects, building an offshore wind farm is new, project manager Rik van den Berg said. Flatiron Construction is a subsidiary of German construction company HOCHTIEF, which also owns one of the largest offshore wind-farm builders in Europe. Flatiron Construction will utilize that company’s expertise, he said.

“We figured we would like to try to enter this market with support from our sister company in Germany,” van den Berg said.

The U.S. trails other countries in the development of offshore wind power. About 45 projects are in the planning stages, but most are test projects far smaller than Cape Wind’s utility-scale project, Rodgers said.

“We’re well behind Europe and China now, but we’re in a position to get in the game,” Rodgers said.

Flatiron Construction will work with Boston-based Cashman Equipment Corp. and Houston-based Cal Dive International Inc. Both companies have extensive experience working offshore construction projects.

The Cape Wind project has been controversial, with local activist groups arguing that it will negatively impact the health of Nantucket Sound. The permitting and environmental review process has taken more than a decade.

“(But) at the end of the day,” Rodgers said, “the government found it was in the public interest.”

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