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UMaine Releases Wind Power Proposal, but Questions Remain
11/06/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

The University of Maine and its partner companies - a consortium known as Aqua Ventus - have released their proposal to obtain a state contract for an offshore wind power project off Maine's coast. A redacted version released today provides some insight into the plan for two floating wind turbines south of Monhegan Island and 12 miles from the mainland. Tom Porter reports.

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VolturnUS

A prototype of a floating wind turbine the Aqua Ventus consortium launched last spring.

The 12-megawatt project would supply some power directly to Monhegan Island, which currently relies on diesel generators, and has some of the highest electric rates in the country. Down the road, UMaine and its partners envision a wind farm producing up to 500 megawatts of power in federal waters.

UMaine's proposal is the sole wind project that the Maine Public Utilities Commission is considering for the contract, after Norwegian company Statoil abandoned its project last month.

Peter Vigue is CEO of construction firm Cianbro, one of the partners in the consortium. Reached by cellphone, he says the project will provide an significant boost to Maine.

"Since the units would be built here in the state of Maine much of the material would be provided by Maine companies, and we believe that would make a substantial difference, particularly in areas that are economically challenged at the present time," Vigue says.

However, as attorney Sean Mahoney, from the Conservation Law Foundation, points out, the elements of the proposal related to the economic impact of the project have been redacted.

"In fact, their entire economic impact report, which was an appendix, is entirely redacted," Mahoney says. "So we have no idea as to the scope or scale of the economic impacts or benefits that would accrue to the state of Maine on that."

Mahoney says that's not the only key information missing from the proposal.

"Information about the power purchase agreement and the price at which the power that would be generated by the project would be sold to consumers at," Mahoney says. "Obviously, that was a big critique of the Statoil proposal, and the Aqua Ventus folks say they expect to do better than the 27 cents per kilowatt hour that Statoil had, but there's no information about that."

Cianbro boss Peter Vigue says he expects the redacted information will be made available next month, once state regulators have evaluated the proposal in full.

To go forward, the project also needs to secure a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which could be worth up to $45 million. A decision on that is expected in the spring.

Photo: Jay Field



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