Articles filed under Offshore Wind from Maine
More than 60 commercial fishermen and their supporters testified Tuesday in favor of a bill that would block any attempt to develop offshore wind projects anywhere along the Maine coast. The bill would prohibit any state agency from permitting or approving any offshore wind energy project regardless of its location. It was introduced by Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, a commercial fisherman, and co-sponsored by eight other Republican lawmakers.
As the rally was getting underway, Governor Janet Mills unveiled a bill that would enact a 10-year offshore wind development moratorium in state waters while state officials create a “roadmap” on how and if offshore wind will work in Maine. But for many local fishermen who went to the rally, that wasn’t good enough.
“The Gulf of Maine looks huge but it's not, and 99 percent is being fished,” said Cushman. "16 miles is not a little area, and maybe just the beginning, we don’t know." He predicts fishermen will lose prime ground for lobstering, which will, in turn, cost them and the economy millions of dollars.
In a letter to licensed commercial fishermen, Mills announced that she will ask the Legislature to approve a 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind projects in waters managed by the state, which extend three miles from shore. The ban, however, wouldn’t include the already permitted New England Aqua Ventus demonstration site off Monhegan island.
Maine fishermen say that Gov. Janet Mills’ plan for a state-led offshore wind project is being rushed. And now news that a developer is considering a new commercial-scale wind project off the coast is adding to their fears.
The location for the turbines hasn’t been identified, but the state is seeking a site that would minimize impact on fishing activity, limit visibility from the coastline and be away from highly trafficked waters and other offshore activities. The cost of the project is unknown and will depend on the scale and designs, state officials said. They hope it will be operating within about 5 years.
The University of Maine will collaborate with New England Aqua Ventus LLC, which includes two global energy companies that are investing $100 million in the project. That investment comes on top of $47 million in grants already awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Maine Title 35-A details the mission of the PUC: “The basic purpose of this regulatory system as it applies to public utilities subject to service regulation under this Title is to ensure safe, reasonable and adequate service, to assist in minimizing the cost of energy available to the State’s consumers and to ensure that the rates of public utilities subject to rate regulation are just and reasonable to customers and public utilities.” Without answering the PUC’s questions (for example, where is the cable going to land?), how can the PUC judge if the rate that would be imposed by this legislation is not abusive to consumers?
The bill would direct the Public Utilities Commission to approve a long-term contract between the University of Maine-led Aqua Ventus program and Central Maine Power. A PUC decision last June to reopen a previously negotiated contract was viewed by project supporters as yet another setback during the administration of Gov. Paul LePage for Maine to develop an energy sector with enormous economic and environmental potential.
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.