Offshore wind energy in Maine is the state’s largest untapped natural resource. Offshore wind energy is clean, renewable, environmentally responsible, and within our reach.
Why offshore wind?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of the Interior (DOI) released a National Offshore Wind Strategy document in September 2016 which indicates that 80% of U.S. electricity demands are located in coastal states, and that the total U.S. offshore wind energy potential is more than twice what the entire country currently uses. Nearly 80% of the U.S. offshore wind resource is located in deepwater.
Offshore wind development will:
- Create new jobs for Mainers. (Gabe, 2013)
- Minimize viewshed issues
- Place renewable energy generation closer to major U.S. population centers.
- Allow access stronger and more consistent winds.
- Reduce energy costs over time by reducing transmission costs from remote land sites, simplifying deployment, and simplifying maintenance.
What about Maine?
In Maine, offshore wind energy represents our largest untapped natural energy resource, with more than 156 GW (1 gigawatt =1,000 megawatts) of potential energy waiting to be harnessed off the coast of Maine. The Gulf of Maine boasts a higher quality offshore wind resource than most parts of the U.S. Mainers currently use 2.4 GW (2,400 megawatts) of electricity each year, however, the Gulf of Maine is located very close to New England populations centers with high electrical demand.
In 2008, Governor John Baldacci established Maine Ocean Energy Task Force to recommend a strategy to develop the renewable ocean energy resources in the Gulf of Maine. Click here to view the Ocean Energy Task Force Final Report, published in December 2009. This report set Maine’s renewable ocean energy goals, including the installation of 5 GW (5,000 megawatts) of offshore wind energy by 2030.
Maine has the deepest waters near its shores, approximately 200 feet deep at 3 nautical miles, and 89% of Maine’s 156 GW offshore wind resource is in deep waters. The state also offers extensive maritime industry infrastructure and proximity to one of the largest energy markets in the country. Maine is an ideal state to lead deepwater offshore wind development.
For more than 10 years, the University of Maine has led the nation in developing an economical way to harness clean, renewable wind energy from our deep ocean waters. This has led to the development of UMaine’s patented VolturnUS floating concrete hull technology that can support wind turbines in water depths of 150 feet or more, and has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind.
In 2013, UMaine and its partners successfully deployed the VolturnUS 1:8, a 1/8th scale, 65 foot tall prototype that was the first grid-connected floating wind turbine in the Americas. Data collected during this deployment is being used to inform design and construction of two full-scale floating offshore wind turbines utilizing the VolturnUS platform technology.
Successfully harnessing offshore wind will contribute to the transformation of Maine’s energy sector to renewable sources, and keep our energy dollars in our state.
New England Aqua Ventus I
Maine Aqua Ventus I, GP, LLC, is leading a demonstration project called New England Aqua Ventus I, a 12 MW floating offshore wind pilot project to develop a clean, renewable energy source off Maine’s shores. Partners include Emera Inc., Cianbro Corporation, and the University of Maine.
This demonstration project will deploy two 6 MW turbines on VolturnUS, the floating concrete semi-submersible hull designed by UMaine, south of Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. Each floating hull/turbine is held in position in the ocean by three marine mooring lines securely anchored to the seabed, with the electrical generation connected by subsea cable to the Maine power grid on shore.
The floating offshore wind turbine platforms and column segments will be fabricated and assembled at an existing industrial facility adjacent to the Penobscot River in Hampden. Turbine components will be assembled on the hull in Searsport and subsequently towed to the Test Site.
An interconnection alternate current (AC) cable will join the turbines, and then connect to a 34.5 kilovolt (kV) subsea power cable extending from the test site to a proposed onshore transition point. Several routes to the mainland are currently being evaluated.
Once installed, the turbines are expected to produce clean renewable energy for the duration of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA).
When will the project happen?
In May 2016, Maine Aqua Ventus was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive $39.9 million in construction funding for New England Aqua Ventus I project. Deployment is currently planned for 2019. The New England Aqua Ventus I demonstration project will likely be the first full-scale floating wind project in the Americas. The following table provides an overview of the current project schedule.
|2016-2017||Complete 100% Project design as well as associated construction, operation, and maintenance grid interconnection and financial plans.|
|February 2017||U.S. DOE NEPA Public Scoping Sessions|
|Spring 2017||Conduct additional ecological studies, secure all appropriate permits|
|Spring 2018||Start VolturnUS platform fabrication|
|Spring 2019||Install onsite anchors, lay cable|
|Fall 2019||Install floating hull/turbines at test site|
How was the project’s location chosen?
In 2009, the Maine Department of Conservation (DOC) designated the site off Mohegan Island as one of three Wind Energy Test Areas off the Maine coast.
These sites were chosen through extensive analysis and outreach efforts by State officials, with input from local/federal officials, fishermen, and residents, to examine the Maine coast for the best possible test site with least amount of impact.
As part of this process, a community forum was held on Monhegan Island to discuss issues related to the identifying a wind energy demonstration area off of Monhegan. During this forum, fishermen were asked to engage in a mapping exercise to rank blocks within the planning area to understand if and where a wind energy demonstration project could be located in waters near to the Island. Several Monhegan fishermen submitted their rankings to the State Planning Office as part of this outreach process.
As a result of this outreach process, the DOC also designated Mohegan as the UMaine Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site to support UMaine’s ongoing research and development efforts.
Since 2009, UMaine has continued its outreach with Mohegan and Midcoast Maine and other potentially affected industry and environmental stakeholders. With dozens of meetings, presentations, video conferences, and telephone conferences, as well as more than two years of weekly or monthly calls with the Monhegan Energy Task Force (METF) since its inception, UMaine has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to the island’s concerns.
In July 2016, Monhegan Island voted for the Monhegan Plantation to engage in negotiations with Maine Aqua Ventus on a community benefit package, a significant milestone and a requirement of the project’s power purchase contract term sheet with the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
What’re the project’s goals?
- Demonstrate UMaine’s VolturnUS at full scale, allowing floating farms to be built out-of-sight across the U.S. and the world in the 2020s and beyond
- Work with local contractors and manufacturers to perfect construction of the floating concrete hull and generate local jobs and economic benefit
- Create and keep Maine jobs in Maine
- Provide low-cost, clean, renewable energy now and in the future that competes favorably with other forms of electricity generation without subsidies.
Will there be any environmental impact?
Since 2010, the Monhegan Test Site has been monitored and studied extensively, resulting in more than 5 years of baseline ecological data.
New England Aqua Ventus I is a demonstration project that requires extensive and ongoing collaboration for permitting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and others as well as state agencies including Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Department of Marine Resources. Previously completed ecological studies provide a comprehensive baseline. Additional studies (including sound and visual) will be conducted following final turbine design. Ongoing ecological monitoring will be performed during operation for research and compliance.
What comes after New England Aqua Ventus I?
NEAV I is designed to meet the objectives of the Ocean Energy Act and Maine legislation to yield tangible economic benefits for Maine, and to lead to even larger-scale, more cost-effective offshore wind developments in Maine and markets worldwide. Successful demonstration of the technology has the potential to lead to a 500 MW-scale project placed in U.S. federal waters. MAV is committed to not developing a larger scale project within 10 miles of an inhabited island or peninsula along the coast of Maine.