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.
Dow's bill, LR 1613, "An Act To Protect Monhegan Island," would prohibit the placement of a wind energy test area — with turbines roughly 585 feet tall — within 10 miles of the Monhegan Lobster Conservation Area. In a Feb. 7 press release announcing his proposal, Dow says the measure is critical to safeguard the iconic island's scenery as well as protect the population of migratory birds that use the island as an important landfall along the North Atlantic Flyway.
"Mainers would never allow a massive wind turbine experiment to be placed within a short distance from the top of Mount Katahdin or near the shores of Acadia National Park, because these are special places and so is Monhegan Island," he said.
But Habib Dagher, project leader for the UMaine-led consortium involved in the Aqua Ventus project, told members of the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee during a 50-minute briefing on Feb. 7, that moving the test site beyond three miles of Monhegan would put it in federal waters. And that's a problem at this stage in the development effort.
"Under the federal permitting process, if we were to move this site into federal waters it would delay the project by close to five years," he said. "Basically, it would kill the project."
Dagher told committee members the only other project still in the running for DOE funding is an Ohio project to build six wind turbines with nearly 21 megawatts of generating capacity in Lake Erie. DOE pulled the plug earlier this year on a New Jersey company's plans to install six 4MW turbines in state waters about three miles off Atlantic City, N.J., citing the project's failure to reach a power agreement by the Dec. 31 deadline for another round of funding.
With a power purchase agreement already approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in 2014 and the Mohegan test site designated in 2009 by the Maine Department of Conservation being approved, Dagher told committee members the Aqua Ventus project has avoided trip-ups that led to other projects being dropped by DOE.
Both Aqua Ventus and the Ohio project are in line for $40 million in funding, contingent on reaching specific milestones and subject to continued congressional appropriations. DOE will be hosting two public sessions on the project in Tenants Harbor on Feb. 28 and on Monhegan on March 1.
Jake Ward, vice president for innovation and economic development at UMaine, said the goal is to install the floating hulls at the Monhegan test site by fall 2019.