A $200 million offshore wind turbine opportunity lost because of LePage agenda


A Statoil wind turbine off Norway, courtesy photo
By Ramona du Houx

October 17, 2013 ·

The Norwegian energy innovator, Statoil announced it was terminating its investment in nearly $200 million for an off-shore ocean energy project citing “changes” and “uncertainty” in the state’s legal framework and “project delays which have made the project outlook too uncertain to proceed.”

“This is a terrible blow to Maine. Governor LePage has failed. He literally turned away hundreds of millions of dollars in economic opportunity and denied jobs to hundreds of Maine people,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “This should not have happened and could have been avoided. But we have a governor who changed the rules of the game and pulled the welcome mat out from underneath Statoil’s feet.”

The state began to work with Statoil in 2009 when former Governor John Baldacci, on a special trade mission focussed on alternative energy to promote Maine, toured the world’s first floating wind turbine. The apparatus, in the North Sea, was built by Statoil. The company is partially owned by the Norwegian government. The trip resulted with an agreement between the University of Maine (UMaine) and Statoil to share research. Since then UMaine has built it’s own prototype floating wind turbine, VolturnUS, that is currently being tested off Castine, Maine. UMaine’s project developer, Habib Dagher, worked closely with Statoil since 2009 and had hopes of including the company in an application to the federal government for a multimillion dollar grant.

“Without Statoil’s investment, we still have an opportunity to be first to market with the university’s project, but having two offshore wind projects in Maine would have been big elements in creating the entire industry here. Now the opportunity is less likely that Maine will be the birthplace of this industry,” said Paul Williamson, executive director of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative.

Earlier this year, the Public Utilities Commission entered in to an agreement with Statoil to move forward with the Norwegian floating wind turbine project; however, in a last minute political hijinks, Governor LePage spearheaded a legislative measure undermining and jeopardizing the existing agreement between the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Statoil and reopened the bidding process thereby putting the project on hold. In simple terms the LePage administration killed the Statoil opportunity by ramrodding a law that terminated the PUC’s agreement.

Statoil’s four turbine project, called Hywind, would have generated 12 megawatts of electricity located in deep water off of Boothbay Harbor. Statoil had promised to spend at least $100 million with qualified Maine-based suppliers and contractors and has expressed its commitment to hiring local workers for Hywind and any of their other projects between Maine and Maryland.

“Statoil had already invested millions in our state and was on track to bring in hundreds of jobs and invest hundreds of millions of dollars more into the Maine economy. Statoil had already shown they had skin in the game by partnering with reputable Maine businesses like Reed and Reed and BIW,” said Alfond. “It is rare for Maine to have an opportunity to play host to such a world-innovator—a world leader that could have put Maine on the map with a cutting-edge, legacy industry. Instead, Governor LePage got in the way, it was politics at its worst, and Statoil said enough is enough.”

In its press announcement, Statoil said it will continue to focus on the Hywind concept in Scotland and will continue to explore other offshore wind markets in the United States.

“Governor LePage has forced millions of dollars of investment and jobs out of our state,” said Speaker Eves of North Berwick. “Now it’s not just his bad policies that are hurting our economy, but his bully tactics have made our state seem unwelcoming for critical investments in clean, alternative energy.”

Statoil, an innovator in energy solutions, launched the world’s first floating wind turbine three years ago. Statoil was named #1 “most socially responsible company in the world” by Forbes and the most transparent company of the world’s 105 largest publicly traded companies. Statoil is partially owned by the Norwegian government.

Alfond added, “Governor LePage likes to remind us that he’s pro-business, yet it is his erratic, anti-business decisions that have pushed a company out of our state. How can we expect to grow our economy with leadership by Governor LePage?”