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With Statoil's exit, wind industry looks to UMaine

One thing utility customers are eager to see is how much they'll have to pay to support the project. That figure likely won't be released until next month. Price was a sticking point for LePage's administration when it came to Statoil's project, which it said would have pushed $200 million in costs onto utility customers over 20 years. LePage, called it a bad deal for the state.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Norwegian company Statoil's decision to abandon its $120 million offshore wind power project in Maine is a setback, renewable energy advocates say, but they still hope a strong offshore wind industry can be built in the state.

Statoil announced this month that changes in terms with the state and scheduling delays have caused too much uncertainty to move forward with their proposal to put four wind turbines 12 miles off the coast of Maine. With the company's departure, a proposal by the University of Maine and its partner companies is the now the only project being considered for the state's effort to harness wind to power homes and businesses. The public will soon get its first look into what that proposal entails.

Alternative energy advocates say they remain hopeful about the university's prospects to obtain a contract with the state and, despite Statoil's exit, are optimistic that Maine's resources can attract future projects for offshore wind, an industry that remains in its infancy.

"Fifteen to 20 years from now, we will see dramatic changes in technology and approaches," said Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative.... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

AUGUSTA, Maine — Norwegian company Statoil's decision to abandon its $120 million offshore wind power project in Maine is a setback, renewable energy advocates say, but they still hope a strong offshore wind industry can be built in the state.

Statoil announced this month that changes in terms with the state and scheduling delays have caused too much uncertainty to move forward with their proposal to put four wind turbines 12 miles off the coast of Maine. With the company's departure, a proposal by the University of Maine and its partner companies is the now the only project being considered for the state's effort to harness wind to power homes and businesses. The public will soon get its first look into what that proposal entails.

Alternative energy advocates say they remain hopeful about the university's prospects to obtain a contract with the state and, despite Statoil's exit, are optimistic that Maine's resources can attract future projects for offshore wind, an industry that remains in its infancy.

"Fifteen to 20 years from now, we will see dramatic changes in technology and approaches," said Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative. "We need to look long term. It's not appropriate to say all is lost."

Statoil's decision to leave followed political maneuvering by Republican Gov. Paul LePage to stop its project from moving forward and to allow the UMaine to submit a bid. The Republican administration first attempted to explicitly void Statoil's agreement with the state, an Associated Press review of documents found. LePage later signed legislation reopening the competitive bidding.

Little is known about the project submitted in August by Maine Aqua Ventus, the umbrella company of the university and its partners, including the Pittsfield-based construction company Cianbro and Emera, the parent company of Bangor Hydro Electric Co. The university has said it's based in part on a 65-foot wind turbine launched off the coast of Castine in June but has kept the proposal confidential.

The public will get its first look at some details of the project when state regulators, who must approve the project, release a redacted version of the proposal next week.

One thing utility customers are eager to see — but will likely remain a mystery for now — is how much they'll have to pay to support the project. That figure likely won't be released until next month.

Price was a sticking point for LePage's administration when it came to Statoil's project, which it said would have pushed $200 million in costs onto utility customers over 20 years. LePage, who says Maine's electricity costs are already too high, called it a bad deal for the state.

Jeff Thaler, assistant counsel to the university, said that when the price is released, he thinks Maine residents will see that the "project is very competitive with what Statoil had previously negotiated with the commission."

But advocates say the state must also look beyond the university's project and take a long-term approach at developing an offshore wind industry in Maine. They say wind energy will help the environment by eliminating pollutants released by other energy sources and reduce the country's reliance on imported oil and gas.

Such industry growth, however, will hinge on political support.

The state's courting of offshore wind projects resulted from legislation under former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who championed wind energy, said Beth Nagusky, Maine director of Environment Northeast. LePage, on the other hand, has consistently opposed wind energy because of its high costs.

"Obviously we have seen the political winds have changed and they can change back again," Nagusky said. "We have a tremendous resource here. We hope that we will be able to attract other companies back to Maine if things turn around."

Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2013/10/25/2762315/with-statoils-exit-wind-industry.html#storylink=cpy


Source: http://www.ledger-enquirer....

OCT 25 2013
http://www.windaction.org/posts/38904-with-statoil-s-exit-wind-industry-looks-to-umaine
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