2016-08-25 / Around Town

Local Firm Aids Wind Farm Setup

By Tom Walsh


The fifth and final turbine has been installed at the Block Island Wind Farm. The nation’s first offshore wind power project is now just weeks away from generating clean, local, wildlife-friendly energy. (Photo by Deepwater Wind) The fifth and final turbine has been installed at the Block Island Wind Farm. The nation’s first offshore wind power project is now just weeks away from generating clean, local, wildlife-friendly energy. (Photo by Deepwater Wind) For Newport’s Patrick Donovan and his colleague, Jamestown native Nathaniel Spencer, the near completion of America’s first offshore wind farm three miles off Block Island has aimed a spotlight on their own Portsmouth-based company.

Meridian Ocean Services, founded in 2012 by Donovan, Spencer and a third principal, Blake Nolan of Annapolis, Maryland, specializes in undersea surveys and inspections using ROV (remotely operated vehicle)-based technology. Meridian performed these services for Deepwater Wind LLC as it moved ahead with the Block Island project.

The wind farm, a 30-megawatt, $300 million power station consisting of five 589-foot turbines, is expected to go online commercially in November. The last of the five turbines was installed in the ocean during the third week of August.


Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s 433 foot-long jack-up vessel Brave Tern traveled from France to Rhode Island to complete the installation of the fifth and last turbine of the Block Island Wind Farm. This is the first time a vessel like this has been in the United States. (Photo courtesy Fred. Olsen Windcarrier) Fred. Olsen Windcarrier’s 433 foot-long jack-up vessel Brave Tern traveled from France to Rhode Island to complete the installation of the fifth and last turbine of the Block Island Wind Farm. This is the first time a vessel like this has been in the United States. (Photo courtesy Fred. Olsen Windcarrier) “We’re excited,” said the 35-yearold Spencer. “This has been a neat opportunity to perform surveys on a regional basis.”

The Block Island wind farm milestone – it has been described as a “complex operation that will feature some of the industry’s most innovative offshore wind technology” – could play an important role in establishing a new source of power for North America. And, as a result of the Deepwater Wind project’s success, the offshore wind industry may finally be gaining momentum in North America.

Besides the Block Island project, the federal government has awarded 11 leases to companies to develop wind farm projects along the East Coast. Besides Rhode Island, they are in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia and New York’s Long Island. The latter project would be designed for 350 megawatts with an ability to expand to 700 megawatts, eventually making Long Island the nation’s largest offshore wind project.

“Block Island was our first big job this close to home,” said Spencer, a graduate of Portsmouth Abbey, the University of Vermont, and Roger Williams University School of Law. He explained that the ocean floor in this area makes Meridian’s services especially important when siting turbines. “We’re in a glacier area. Much of it is hard rock. You want to find a muddy or at least the weakest area so as not to run into hard granite.”

Meridian was established in January, 2012, when Donovan, 36, a graduate of Rogers High School and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, had an idea for a new company.

“Pat said that he thought we could start an ROV company, putting them into ship ballast tanks and inspecting them. The idea was that we could do these underwater inspections without putting divers in the water, and that we could use ROVs to streamline our services,” Spencer recalled.

They launched the business using Donovan’s garage in Newport as their headquarters.

Today, the Donovan garage era is but a cherished memory. Meridian Ocean Services now describes itself online as “a fast growing, international marine services business with primary focus on ROV-based sub-sea survey and inspection.”

The online profile reads, “Meridian leverages the latest in ROV, AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) and advanced imaging technology and works with clients across a variety of industries to optimize undersea survey and inspection efforts.”

With its fleet of vehicles “available for rapid deployment around the world,” the company has worked as far away as Nigeria, Trinidad, Venezuela, Canada and sites in and around the Gulf of Mexico.

Spencer said shipping concerns like the concept because inspections below the waterline can be performed without out-of-service time.

Besides the offshore energy specialty demonstrated with the Block Island wind farm, Meridian also serves “engineering and infrastructure, port and terminal, environmental and scientific, and ship husbandry industries,” according to a Businessweek profile.

The company maintains offices in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and the Bahamas.

This past July 22, Meridian Ocean Services was acquired by Oceaneering International, Inc., another international business that uses remotely operated vehicles to perform underwater services.

“We are pleased to have closed this transaction with Meridian, which will add talent and expertise allowing us to further penetrate the UWILD (underwater inspection in lieu of dry docking) market, which is a very logical adjacency,” said Rod Larson, Oceaneering International president. “The addition of Meridian is complementary to our ROV, diving, asset integrity, and tooling services businesses and will provide a comprehensive solution for our customers.”

Meridian Ocean Services has now begun a new era as a subsidiary of Oceaneering International, Inc.

Return to top