PUC approves $120M Statoil offshore floating wind turbine project – will produce clean energy and jobs

LePage administration is against the project

January 24th, 2013 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Economy, Energy Issues, Environment, Issue 36, Maine's green energy potential · 4 Comments

Statoil North America of Stamford, Connecticut plans to deploy four 3-megawatt wind turbines on floating spar buoy structures in the Gulf of Maine off Boothbay Harbor at a water depth of approximately 460 feet. They would be similar to this prototype in Norway Gov. Baldacci, Dr Dagher and others from Maine went to see in 2009 .

The Maine Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved a project proposal by Statoil to build a $120 million deepwater wind turbine demonstration project off the coast of Boothby Harbor, in the Gulf of Maine.

“This begins to establish Maine as the worldwide center on renewable energy with a strong focus on off-shore wind energy,” said Former Governor John Baldacci.

Baldacci and Dr. Habib Dagher of the University of Maine toured the world’s first floating offshore wind turbine off the Norwegian Coast in 2009, designed by Statoil. This Hywind project has exceeded performance goals surviving 50-foot waves and hurricane-force winds. On that overseas trade mission trip, to promote alternative energy technologies happening in Maine, a Memorandum of Understanding to share technologies developed for floating offshore wind farms was signed by Dagher with Statoil. Since then Dagher’s team of engineers and researchers have developed their own floating offshore wind turbine designs at UMaine’s composite laboratory. The partnership, sharing knowledge, has proven very valuable to UMaine and the state as UMaine is proceeding to deploy their own floating wind turbine this March. The overall goal of the UMaine project is to build floating wind turbine farms with the private sector. The project could create at least 10 thousand jobs.

Statoil’s turbine proposal received votes 2-1 in favor to proceed from the PUC. There are several conditions Statoil must meet for the approval to be official.

“It is a milestone for us,” said Kristin Aamodt, Statoil’s project manager.

The four floating wind turbines Statoil proposes to erect 2 miles off Boothbay Harbor would be similar to the Hywind test turbine that Baldacci and Dagher viewed and is producing power off the coast of Norway.

Statoil has built a reputation as a substantial oil and gas producer owned in part by the Norwegian government. Now they are branching into offshore wind taking their expertise to develop renewable-energy projects around the world. They received a $4 million grant from the Department of Energy for this project. UMaine also was a DOE $4 million grant recipient as both projects showcase innovative technologies and improve performance of offshore wind technologies. The DOE is following both projects closely. Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited UMaine in 2010 to witness the work being made at the composite laboratory on offshore wind technology.

“We spend a lot of time talking about bringing good business and jobs to Maine –and now we have a billion dollar company that is committed to hiring local workers for this project and any of their other projects between here and Maryland,” said Sen. Troy Jackson who also serves on of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “This is an opportunity for many Maine companies to develop cutting-edge expertise on energy projects not just in Maine but around the world.”

The LePage administration was against the proposal.

“This vote will exacerbate our economic challenges, and it compounds Maine’s competitive disadvantages,” said Governor Paul LePage.

LePage’s Energy Director Patrick Woodcock stated this in a press release, “While the supplier certainly indicates the intention of supporting Maine jobs, this office does not believe that the supplier has demonstrated clear investments in the State of Maine.”

Statoil is committed to hiring at least 150 Mainers directly. Importantly Maine’s manufactures like Reed and Reed may receive contracts to help construct the array of floating turbines. There is a consortium of companies called the Maine Wind Industry Initiative (MWII) that stands ready with their expertise to help construct and deploy the wind turbines. They work directly with Dagher at UMaine.

“Statoil’s commitment to use local resources as well as assist in local supply chain development is very valuable to the growth of a new industry here in Maine. Their commitment will help Maine companies rise to the challenge to provide services not currently available in Maine,” said Paul Williamson, Driector of MWII. “MWII looks forward to supporting Statoil throughout the project.”

Aamodt confirmed that Statoil would engage members of the MWII in any large scale wind farm that they start in the Northeast before 2025. They pledged, in good faith, to award contracts that represent 10 percent of capital spending – amounting to $100 million – for qualified Maine suppliers and contractors.

LePage also complained about the cost to consumers as electricity bills would increase. He neglected to mention that the slight increase would only be — 75 cents a month for an average household, which uses 550 kilowatt hours per month.

Aamodt is confident about the Boothbay project turbines. “We know it works now we want to cut costs,” she said.

In addition Statoil’s continued research and development work with Dr. Dagher at the UMaine is projected bring the cost of the electricity down with modifications to the designs which will enable the turbines to collect and produce electricity more efficiently. A new UMaine laboratory built specifically, with DOE and state bond funding, for the research and development of wind turbines has become the Center of Excellence devoted to these technologies on the East Coast.

“Maine can be center stage as a global hub of innovation and renewable energy,” said Sen John Cleveland, who also serves as the Chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “This project is a good, strong step toward helping to reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.”

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Minwoo Kim // Jan 28, 2013 at 4:30 am

    Obama’s energy policy is right. Japan’s FiT in July is among the highest in the world. Japan’s FiT is shaking the renewable energy market. New solutions will be showed in Japan. This is it! Floating wind turbine is one of the best solutions for USA and UK. UK has more install places around its shores than any other in the world. USA has Atlantic Coast. As you know, Every year Some typhoons arrive Japan. The typhoon has strong wind. Floating wind turbines must have constructed to resist typhoons. So they have to reduce vibration to install floating wind turbines on the sea. Because, it makes many kinds of problems! It’s increasing the durability problem of floating wind turbine. Vibration’s caused by wind, waves and external forces. New Floating Body Stabilizer for floating wind turbines has been created in South Korea. The Floating Body Stabilizers generate drag force immediately when floating wind turbines are being rolled, pitched and yawed on the water. Recently, this Floating Body Stabilizers have been used to reduce vibration of floating solar panels in South Korea.

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