The proposed route for a cable that would bring electricity from an offshore wind project to Maine’s power grid is facing another routing change.
The most recent plans for the Maine Aqua Ventus pilot wind energy project called for the transmission cable to run from the test site off Monhegan Island into the village of Port Clyde. But now that route is no longer being explored, Jake Ward, vice president for innovation and economic development at the University of Maine, said Friday.
Maine Aqua Ventus has identified 11 other possible routes, and the top two options are being evaluated, Ward said. However, details of those top routes are not yet ready to be disclosed, he said.
“We continue to work with fishermen, communities and regulators to find an optimum cable route,” Ward said.
The two-turbine pilot project slated for placement in the Gulf of Maine near Monhegan aims to test the feasibility of UMaine’s semi-submersible floating concrete platforms for offshore wind energy generation. Maine Aqua Ventus is a collaboration between the University of Maine, Cianbro Corp., and Naval Energies.
Plans to bring the cable ashore in Port Clyde, a village in the town of St. George, met backlash from residents and fishermen who worried the project would harm their way of life. Last month, the St. George Selectboard voted to formally oppose the project.
Ruling out Port Clyde as a cable route resulted in large part to the fact that fishermen are still fishing in an existing cableway where Maine Aqua Ventus planned to lay its cable, Ward said. Fishermen using mobile gear are prohibited from fishing in cableways, but because the cable in the charted cableway was inactive, the Maine Department of Marine Resources is not enforcing the restriction.
If Maine Aqua Ventus were to add a new cable to that area, the restriction would have to be enforced.
Ward said project leaders hope to bury as much of the cable as possible, which in Port Clyde, would not be possible.
“Burying [the cable] is better for the cable, it’s better for fishing, it’s better for everyone,” Ward said.
A geophysical survey of the top two cable routes will be conducted in March, he said.
Fishermen have said that they’re not against alternative energy, but that they have reservations about how wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine can co-exist with the fishing industry.
Port Clyde lobsterman Gerry Cushman said it was a good decision to move the cable route out of Port Clyde, though he doesn’t “think any fishermen is really excited about it coming to any port.”
Cushman was at a meeting held by Maine Aqua Ventus in Boothbay on Thursday regarding the project and said that project representatives did a better job at presenting the project than they had in previous meetings.
Earlier this month, the project effectively stalled when the Maine Public Utilities Commission voted against giving final approval to Maine Aqua Ventus’ contract to sell electricity to Central Maine Power.
Maine Aqua Ventus representatives said the PUC decision is not a setback and that the project remains viable.