Maine a step closer to receiving renewable energy from floating offshore wind turbines

By Morgan Rogers - November 8th, 2013 

The VolturnUS offshore wind tower prototype being lowered into onto the water. The platform’s technology is the first in the world and was designed at UMamine. photo by Ramona du Houx

Residents of three Maine coastal towns will meet with University of Maine (UMaine) officials to learn about the offshore wind power project that may bring a power transmission line through one of their communities.

Two floating wind turbines are being planned by UMaine and partner companies to be located south of Monhegan Isalnd and 12 miles from the mainland. The possible route of the transmission line will be discussed at a series of meetings with local communities.

“We have several routes that are evolving, and we’ll be showing them at those meetings,” said Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development.

The meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and will be held Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Friendship Town Office; Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Bristol Consolidated School; and Monday, Nov. 25, at the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde.

The series of meetings are part of a public outreach effort to inform and include residents in the offshore wind power project. They held similar meetings with local fishermen when planning the locations of the floating wind turbines.

The project aims to provide 12-megawatts of power to Monhegan Island, which currently uses diesel generators, making it on of the highest electric rates in the country.

The line from the turbines will be submerged in the Gulf of Maine and connect to a Central Maine Power substation near New Harbor.

“It’s a fairly small transmission line, not too different from what you’d see on a utility pole,” said Ward.

The bid UMaine submitted to the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to send long-term renewable energy to the state of Maine from the floating wind turbines back in August will become partially public due to the university’s role.

Officials are now working with PUC to redact some information from the document that could put UMaine at a “competitive disadvantage,” like estimated energy prices, and anything that could give other projects an advantage in the U.S. Department of Energy grant competition. The document is likely to go public later this week.

Thus far the project was awarded $4 million by the Department of Energy to the Advanced Structures and Composites Center for the engineering phase of the offshore floating wind turbine project.

The floating wind turbine project team is now competing for up to $47 million over the next four years from the Energy Department to continue and expand their work.

UMaine plans to have 80 wind turbines in a 4-by 8-mile space 20 miles offshore that will increase in scale by 2030 to provide 5 gigawatts of renewable energy to the state of Maine.

The floating wind turbines will neither be audible or visible from the shoreline, according to UMaine.