Library filed under Offshore Wind from Maine
Maine Aqua Ventus vows to work with the Public Utilities Commission to get its pilot wind farm moving forward.
A decadelong effort to establish an offshore wind energy industry in Maine is at a turning point, its future hinging on whether state utility regulators vote to reopen a power contract to test a patented technology for deep-water floating wind farms.
Any future offshore wind development ― including the possible 500-megawatt Maine Aqua Ventus project ― will likely take place in federal waters. But before that can happen, Maine’s biggest investment in offshore wind power must navigate the straits of small-town government in the communities of St. George.
"A couple of months ago there was a meeting held right here where I'd say over 200 fishermen came and voiced their concerns about this project overall and there was not a single voice of support."
Residents of the town of St. George, which includes the villages of Tenants Harbor and Port Clyde, submitted a petition with more than 300 signatures at the town office and voice their opposition to plans by Maine Aqua Ventus to build a wind farm near Monhegan Island and bring the cable from the turbines onto shore in St. George.
Energy committee members unanimously vote against a bill that would have moved the test site at least 7 miles farther out to sea.
Maine Aqua Ventus representatives testified that the bill would have the practical effect of ending Maine’s bid to build the country’s first commercial-size, floating wind turbines and jump-start an industry ...But representatives of the Maine Lobstering Union, which represents 500 fishermen, said wind power has no place on the Maine coast. If the industry takes off, undersea cables and moorings associated with offshore wind farms would destroy valuable lobster habitat and imperil fishing.
Fishermen worry about how close they’ll be able to get to the turbines without entering restricted space, and also want to avoid getting traps stuck on underwater wires and moorings. Those boundaries likely will be set by the U.S. Coast Guard much later in the planning process.
Legislation proposed by Maine Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, to prohibit The New England Aqua Ventus 1 project from building two 6-megawatt wind turbines two-and-a-half miles off Monhegan Island could kill the University of Maine-led effort. For now, it is now one of only two projects still in the running for Department of Energy funding.
Bristol residents opposing the project have cited concerns about the negative effects the cable could have on fisheries and shrimp draggers, concerns for the safety of birds and fears that the turbines could impact their ocean views.
The Bristol Wind Power Advisory Committee is preparing a contingency plan as conversations about a polarizing offshore-wind project resurfaced in the last month. The University of Maine-led Maine Aqua Ventus I project would consist of two floating wind turbines off the coast of Monhegan Island and south of Bristol.
A global energy company that abandoned plans two years ago to build a $120 million demonstration wind farm off the Maine coast following opposition from Gov. Paul LePage is moving ahead with a similar project in Scotland.
The circular logic of REC market fundamentals would have low REC pricing jeopardizing future development. As renewable energy project profit margins get squeezed, fewer projects will be built and forward REC prices would rebound as forward supply tightens.The worry is that offshore wind projects could break this self-correcting market logic in the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL).
According to the draft analysis, northern long-eared bats and little brown bats are listed as state species of special concern and are being considered for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are among the least common bats to be killed by wind turbines, but concern has risen because of the rise of white-nose.
A long-term contract, as laid out in a finalized term sheet, will now be negotiated between Maine Aqua Ventus and Central Maine Power, which is the utility within whose jurisdiction the pilot project would be generating power. The term sheet approved Tuesday calls for Maine Aqua Ventus to sell electricity to CMP for 23 cents per kilowatt hour. The PUC will review and approve the final contract.
The University of Maine and its partner companies have offered a glimpse into their offshore wind project proposal, releasing information about plans to supply some power directly to Monhegan Island, the companies working on the project and more specifics on its technology.
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.
Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, released a news statement Tuesday afternoon that reaffirmed the governor's opposition. “The Administration has been perfectly clear through the regulatory process that the term-sheet offered by Statoil was ironclad in its cost – placing a $200 million burden on Mainers by way of increasing electric costs," according to the statement. "Additionally, the corporation was ambiguous in its commitment to growing Maine’s economy."
“As a general principle, the more information that’s in the public view, the better, because people may have interesting, important things to say to us,” said PUC Chairman Thomas Welch in an interview after PUC deliberations took place in Hallowell.
The UMaine partnership's lawyer, Tony Buxton, said the proposal was filed as a confidential document in keeping with the practices of all other PUC bidders, including Statoil, and would be made public if and when a power contract is awarded by the PUC. Buxton pointed out that the university project is in competition for federal energy funds with six national deep water wind proposals, including Statoil.