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PUC Backs Out of Offshore Wind Agreement

Floating wind turbines could be deployed farther offshore where winds are stronger. (hpgruesen/Pixabay)
Floating wind turbines could be deployed farther offshore where winds are stronger. (hpgruesen/Pixabay)
June 14, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine's Public Utilities Commission may be set to scuttle another offshore wind energy project.

Citing higher electricity costs to consumers, the commission says it wants to reopen a contract for a University of Maine test project that would construct two wind turbines on floating platforms that could be deployed in deep water.

According to Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the move mirrors actions taken in 2013. At that time, at the urging of Gov. Paul LePage, the Commission reopened an agreement it had made with global energy giant Statoil to construct floating offshore wind turbines. Statoil then withdrew the proposal and built its project in waters off Scotland.

"This decision is coming on the heels of that,” Voorhees said. “And together they send a very strong message that Maine is not interested in investment in offshore wind technology."

The commission says the university’s 12 megawatt project would add about 73 cents a month to the average Central Maine Power home customer in the first year.

Voorhees maintained that the PUC's objections overlook the economic benefits of developing what would be a groundbreaking technology for deep-water wind power. A recent study found the industry would create more than 2,000 new jobs in Maine.

"We have a lot of marine and coastal industries that could be retrofitted to take advantage of building and maintaining offshore wind turbines,” he said.

Supporters of the project say reopening the contract also puts $165 million in public and private investment at risk, including a $40 million grant from the federal Department of Energy.

Voorhees pointed out that Maine will be left behind as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York aggressively pursue development of offshore wind.

"If we continue to make these kinds of decisions, turbines will be built somewhere else,” Voorhees said; “and somewhere else will develop the industries, and they'll get the bigger economic benefits."

He added that floating platforms would allow development of wind in vast areas farther offshore where the wind is more powerful and productive.

More information is available here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME