Hearings scheduled Feb. 28, March 1 in St. George, Monhegan

Department of Energy seeks public input on offshore wind project

By Dan Otis Smith | Feb 24, 2017
Source: monheganenergy.info An artist's rendering of how the Aqua Ventus turbines would appear looking south from Little White Head on Monhegan. The renderings were produced by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the DOE and are available at the Monhegan Energy Task Force website.

St. George — The Department of Energy will conduct hearings next week in St. George and Monhegan to receive public input as part of an environmental assessment for the New England Aqua Ventus I offshore wind project proposed for a site in state waters 2.5 miles off Monhegan.

Aqua Ventus would consist of two 6 megawatt wind turbines installed on floating concrete platforms designed by the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The university is currently working on the project with partners North American power company Emera Maine, construction firm Cianbro, French contractor DCNS, and a number of other organizations.

The project would aim to demonstrate and perfect the platform technology, the first of its kind in the world, according to UMaine Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development Jake Ward. It has received millions in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and could receive $39.9 million more after the environmental assessment.

Ward said construction would likely not begin for more than a year.

The floating design allows all construction to occur onshore and have components towed to a site in deep ocean waters far from the mainland, where the wind is stronger and steadier. Until now, other offshore wind turbines have been installed directly into the seabed.

The project is the result of years of testing and study of potential sites, Ward said. “We’re six, seven years getting to this point. And it’s all been done with very deliberate thought and consideration.” A one-eighth-scale prototype that floated near Castine for nearly 18 months in 2013-2014 was considered successful in terms of withstanding rough winds and waters and generating power.

According to the University of Maine website, the site off Monhegan was selected “due to its distance from the mainland, strong and consistent winds, a limited number of fishermen, and its proximity to an island with high energy costs.” The site also says the project would result in no additional restrictions on fishing activity.

Ward said as many as a dozen possible routes for cables from the turbines had been considered, but that focus had narrowed to a few sites in St. George, including, potentially, the 10 Cold Storage Road property bought by the town in 2015. He said infrastructure for that part of the project would be “very small,” and would not preclude other uses, wherever it ends up.

Ward said long-term hopes for the project would involve such technology being designed and built in Maine for export. He said there were no plans for the demonstration project to lead to larger wind operations in the Gulf of Maine.

However, the project is not just for show. According to a Portland Press Herald report, Aqua Ventus would bring capacity to power 6,000 average homes. These could include homes on Monhegan, where power costs much more than the average statewide, also according to the Press Herald.

Some Monhegan residents have spoken publicly against the project, while others have voiced support.

Earlier in February, Sen. Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro) proposed a bill that would prohibit the placement of the wind test site within 10 miles of Monhegan. A press release from his office at the time said the legislation was necessary to protect migratory birds and the area’s economy and culture.

Ward said the university has put in seven years of study and millions of dollars to reach the current proposal. “If the legislation were to move the test site, all that information would be lost,” he said. “It would essentially kill the project.”

Two hearings will be held Feb. 28 at the St. George Town Office, one at 2 p.m., and another at 7 p.m. The Monhegan hearing will be held March 1, at 5:30 p.m. at the Monhegan Island School.

Reporter Dan Otis Smith can be reached at 594-4401 x123 or by email at dsmith@villagesoup.com.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Sonja Sleeper | Mar 06, 2017 09:35

And there goes the view off the island.  That amazing expanse of open sea.



Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 24, 2017 18:09

What is the total financial benefit to the University of Maine from all sources.



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