UMaine continues its plans to deploy a offshore floating wind turbine in 2013

By Ramona du Houx

September 12, 2012


Dr. Dagher explains more about Maine’s offshore wind long term plan to Dr. Steven Chu, Sec. of DOE and the Congressional Delegation. The project will bring 15,000 jobs per year to the state. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine could be looking at the first offshore floating wind development in America in the next few years. There are also plans to build floating wind turbine farms which could be the first in the world. If Statoil NA does this or other companies is yet to be determined but the University of Maine has plans in motion for this project.

In August, 2012, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, (BOEM), announced that it had finished a part of their review of Statoil NA’s lease application to lease around 22.2 square miles off the Maine coast, near Boothbay, for a deepwater floating offshore wind project. BOEM publicly stated that Statoil NA is qualified to hold a commercial lease on the Outer Continental Shelf. The next step of the leasing process is underway.

Statoil NA is a Norwegian energy company where the Norwegian state owns 67 percent interest and is managed by Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. They are innovators in deepwater floating offshore wind technology as is the University of Maine’s composite laboratories. In 2009, Statoil launched the world’s first full-scale floating wind turbine, Hywind.

The Hywind prototype was a breakthrough in technology because all other ocean wind turbines are fixed to the ocean floor. Until then the stronger winds found in deepwater areas couldn’t be accessed and turbines had to be placed where they could be seen from the shore, which disturbed some residents. Statoil’s researches were looking to perfect their prototype when they met Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine AWEC composites laboratory.

In 2009 then Governor John Bladacci, Dr. Dagher, and wind consortium advocates including some Maine businesses traveled to Norway and viewed the Hywind prototype and Statoil’s operations. This Maine delegation returned home with a Memorandum of Understanding between Statoil and the University of Maine to share technologies. Now UMaine is has an offshore wind testing laboratory funded by a $10 million grant from the Department of Energy and Maine Institute of Technology grants and Statoil is moving forward with their floating wind turbines here.

In 2010 Dr. Steven Chu, of the Department of Energy along with Gov. Baldacci and the congressional delegation visited Dr. Dagher’s composite laboratory at UMaine, where the research for offshore wind floating platforms is underway.

Dagher said, “There is unlimited wind off our coasts, and we are developing the technology to bring it to Maine and beyond. We need to become less dependent on foreign oil. The $20 billion project to build a floating wind farm 20 miles offshore will allow the state to sell electricity to our neighbors. We’ll export it. The potential is huge.”

In March of 2013 Dagher and his UMaine team will deploy America’s first prototype floating wind platform off Monhegan Island. Environmental monitoring of the site is underway. In Phase Two of the project, a full-scale model — 300 feet to the platform hub — will be built and deployed by in 2014.

Dagher refers to Phase Three as the, “‘Stepping Stone stage,’ where we will have the world’s first floating wind farm of five windmills. During this stage, we will work out any problems, so that in the final stages full scale commercial wind farms can be built.”

Mainer’s use about 3,000 megawatts. Maine’s floating offshore wind-farm plan would produce 5,000 megawatts by 2030, enough energy to power an estimated 1.5 million households, annually.


Wind energy potential in America, courtesy map.

By 2030 a network of floating farms will be located 20 to 50 miles offshore, generating electricity to power Maine, the New England market, and possibly beyond. But some investors remain cautious, wondering how they will get the energy to market. Without a transmission line able to accommodate the increase in electricity, investing in wind farms could be futile.
While Statoil is investing in offshore wind technology and working with UMaine researchers the company continues to be involved with numerous offshore wind projects that are fixed to the seabed in the United Kingdom. When BOEM announced that Statoil NA is qualified to hold a commercial lease on the Outer Continental Shelf the next phase of BOEM’s leasing process clicked in and the following day BOEM published a Request for Interest notice and a Notice of Intent to Prepare Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).

Statoil has been holding public meetings for comment and questions about their intentions in different Maine seacoast towns.