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Maine Could Have First Floating Wind Farm in the Americas

Maine Aqua Ventus is currently evaluating the first floating wind turbine technology in the Americas. (Maine Aqua Ventus)
Maine Aqua Ventus is currently evaluating the first floating wind turbine technology in the Americas. (Maine Aqua Ventus)
December 19, 2019

ORONO, Maine -- Soon, Maine could have the first floating wind farm in the Americas.

Central Maine Power Company recently signed a 20-year contract with Maine Aqua Ventus, which plans to build two floating wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine.

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine developed the technology behind Maine Aqua Ventus.

Habib Dagher, executive director of the Composites Center and principal investigator of the project, explains why offshore wind technology could be big for Maine.

"The biggest resource that was available to us in Maine that's untapped was offshore wind," he points out. "To put things in perspective, the Gulf of Maine has about 156 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity within 50 miles. A gigawatt is a good-sized nuclear power plant."

CMP will buy electricity generated from Maine Aqua Ventus. It developed this floating turbine technology because Maine's coastline runs too deep for an offshore wind farm, which is tied to the ocean floor.

While a wind turbine can be located far from the coast, which could ease public concerns, it may be difficult to get support from the lobster and fishing industries.

Right now, there's a test site several miles off of Monhegan Island, the first pilot project of floating wind technology in the Americas. It is one-eighth the scale of a planned six-megawatt turbine.

Since the test site launched in 2013, Dagher and his team have been evaluating its potential impact, including on marine life and birds.

"We have seen no bird fatalities related to that particular unit," he stresses. "We've had 24/7 videos on that unit, for example, that have been collected, and we've had students at the University of Maine actually view all the videos to make sure there's birds, or aren't any birds, out there. That's the kind of homework that's been done to do that."

In June, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill directing the Public Utilities Commission to approve the Maine Aqua Ventus contract.

If the project passes various permitting processes, including local, state, environmental and ecological reviews, the pilot turbines could be complete as soon as 2022.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME