Federal and state officials talk offshore wind, way offshore

By Ethan Andrews | Sep 15, 2010
Source: File Photo Federal and state officials met at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast Sept. 13 to discuss potential deep water wind power developments in the federal waters off the coast of Maine.

Belfast — As Augusta eyes a trio of offshore wind energy demonstration sites, federal and state officials met at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast on Sept. 13 to discuss the potential of siting wind turbines further out to sea, in the federally-controlled waters of the Outer Continental Shelf.

The daylong meeting, attended by officials from a number of federal agencies, representatives of the state and tribal interests, amounted to a meet and greet, according to Maureen Bornholdt of the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service), one of a number of federal officials who traveled from Washington for the meeting.

"It was a basic who we are, what we do," among interested constituents and regulators, she said.

Bornholdt said the federal government had set up deep water wind power task forces in five states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland — with two others, New York and North Carolina, "on the horizon."

Of those, Delaware, where BOERME recently identified an area the federal government is interested in leasing and put out a formal request for interest, is the furthest along, Bornholdt said. Conversations between Delaware and U.S. government officials started roughly a year ago, she said, but have moved slower there than in some states.

Bornholdt compared Maine to Maryland, which has moved through the process quickly since talks between state and federal officials began in April.

"You get a jump start when the state has done its research, which is what you see here," she said.

Speaking after the meeting, Karin Tilberg, senior policy adviser to Gov. John Baldacci, credited the governor with initiating the discussion of deep water offshore wind projects, saying the discussions with federal officials dovetailed with the state's recent efforts to promote offshore wind power developments in state waters, which extend roughly 10 miles off the coast.

Earlier this year, the state identified three sites in coastal waters for offshore wind power demonstration projects.

On Sept. 1, the Maine Public Utilities Commission put out a request for proposals for offshore wind and tidal demonstration projects capable of producing an aggregate of no more than 30 megawatts of power with no more than 5 megawatts coming from tidal power.

Bornholdt said the group that met on Tuesday did not reach any conclusions and no immediate actions are likely to come from the meeting.

"We were glad we all got together," she said. "I think it's going to be time well invested."

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