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:
Start a new industry in Maine.
Create jobs in engineering, construction, manufacturing, maintenance, navigation, and other areas.
Reduce Maine’s reliance on imported fossil fuels (nearly $6 billion per year).
Keep more of our energy dollars in Maine.
For more than 10 years, UMaine has led development of the 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.
States to the south of us are working to build their offshore wind industries. MA, RI, NY, and MD have major projects in the works which are attracting billions of dollars in local investments.
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 United States. Mainers currently use 2.4 GW (2,400 megawatts) of electricity each year. The Gulf of Maine is located very close to New England populations centers with high electrical demands.
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.
University of Maine Economist Todd Gabe estimates that the New England Aqua Ventus I project will produce nearly $200 million in total economic output, and more than 1,500 Maine-based jobs, including jobs for construction and operations and maintenance. A full economic analysis from 2013 can be accessed here.
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. The hull 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.
Aqua Ventus is a demonstration project for a 11 MW floating offshore wind pilot project to develop a clean, renewable energy source off Maine’s shores.
This demonstration project will deploy a single 11 MW turbine on VolturnUS, the floating concrete semi-submersible hull designed by UMaine, south of Monhegan Island. The floating hull/turbine is held in position by three marine mooring lines securely anchored to the seabed, with the electrical generation connected by subsea cable to the Maine power grid onshore.
Where will construction take place?
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 Brewer, Maine. Turbine components will be assembled on the hull in Searsport, Maine, and subsequently towed to the UMaine Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site at Monhegan Island.
An interconnection alternate current (AC) cable will join the turbine, and then connect to a 34.5 kilovolt (kV) subsea power cable extending from the test site to the mainland.
Aqua Ventus has received $10.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, and is eligible for additional federal funding after meeting project milestones, subject to progress reviews. The demonstration project will likely be the first full-scale floating wind project in the Americas.
Once installed, the turbine is expected to produce clean renewable energy for the duration of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA).
How was the project’s location chosen?
The test site south of Monhegan Island was selected following an extensive public outreach process conducted by the State of Maine due to its distance from the mainland, strong and consistent winds, limited number of fishermen, and close proximity to an island with high energy costs. More than five years of ecological and environmental surveys have been conducted, making the test site one of the most extensively studied locations in the Gulf of Maine.
Since the selection and establishment of the test site, UMaine has continued its outreach with Monhegan 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 project communications.
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 are 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 which competes favorably with other forms of electricity generation without subsidies
How will environmental impacts be assessed?
Aqua Ventus is a single turbine demonstration project that requires extensive and ongoing collaboration with state regulatory agencies including: Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Department of Marine Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and others.
Click here to watch a video published in February 2018 by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW), based at the University of Delaware, that features never-before-seen underwater footage of fish feeding at America’s first offshore wind farm, as well as testimonials from local recreational fishermen and charter captains.
The University of Maine, the State of Maine, and U.S. Department of Energy have funded multiple studies/surveys to characterize the baseline physical and ecological environment of the test site. Completed studies include partnering with the New Jersey Audubon Society to use radar to track birds and bats, vessel-based visual surveys conducted by Lubird Environmental, acoustic bat surveys conducted by Stantec, and a passive acoustic survey for songbirds at Lobster Cove, Monhegan Island, conducted by the University of Maine.
Ongoing ecological monitoring will be performed during operation for research and compliance.
What comes after New England Aqua Ventus I?
Successful demonstration of the technology has the potential to lead to a 500 MW-scale project placed in U.S. federal waters. Aqua Ventus is committed to not developing a larger scale project within 10 miles of an inhabited island or peninsula along the coast of Maine.
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