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Feds seek public comment on massive offshore wind turbines

By Daniel Dunkle | Feb 28, 2017
Video by: VStv
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle UMaine Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development Jake Ward fields questions on the proposed offshore wind project Feb. 28 in St. George.

St. George — The parking lot was full at the St. George Town Office Feb. 28 as fishermen, activists, residents and members of the press gathered to learn more about the proposed 600-foot-tall floating wind turbines that may be located off Monhegan for a 20-year test.

Officials from the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Energy set up posters displaying information and artists' drawings of the proposed project, and members of the public and press were asked to sign in and then work their way around the room taking in the exhibits. Officials including UMaine Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development Jake Ward fielded questions.

"The purpose is to demonstrate new technology for floating offshore wind, offshore wind being one of the largest renewable energy resources available to the state of Maine," Ward said.

The proposal is to locate two nearly 600-foot-tall wind turbines 2.5 miles south of Monhegan Island. The turbines have a rotor that is 495 feet in diameter supported by a floating concrete base. A University of Maine team designed the project, called Aqua Ventus, to include the six-megawatt wind turbines.

"Our particular technology is unique in that we have a floating concrete base that allows for support of the tower and turbines," Ward said.

In previous designs for offshore wind projects, turbine towers were driven directly into the seabed. This project's floating bases will be held in place by anchors.

The project also includes miles of submarine cable connecting each turbine to a seabed hub and then to the CMP distribution line in Port Clyde on land owned by the town of St. George.

The two floating foundations are to be built at an industrial facility in Hampden using a watertight enclosure that will allow crews to work below the waterline. From there the foundations will be floated down the Penobscot River to Mack Point in Searsport. There, the turbines will be added and the whole structure will be towed to the Monhegan test site.

The turbines will also be painted white and include flashing red lights to meet Federal Aviation Act requirements.

The project has received millions in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and could receive $39.9 million more after the environmental assessment.

Some have voiced skepticism and concern about the project.

Ron Huber of Friends of Penobscot Bay said he is concerned about the effect the project could have on fish and the fisheries if it is located within state waters. He said such turbines should be located at least 25 miles from the mainland.

He also raised questions about the duration of the project, arguing 20 years is a long time to be considered a test.

However, Huber acknowledged wind energy is preferable to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear plants to generate energy.

"The challenge is siting them where they will do the most good with the least harm," he said.

The energy department is now in the process of reaching out to the public to hear concerns about the project. Those who would like to comment on the project have until March 22 to do so. Address comments to Ms. Diana Heyder, NEPA Division, U.S. Department of Energy, Golden Field Office, 15013 Denver West Parkway, Golden, CO 80401 or via email at

For more information, visit

Daniel Dunkle can be reached at or 594-4401 ext. 122. Follow him on Twitter @DanDunkle.

State Geologist Robert Marvinney provides information concerning a proposed offshore wind project in St. George. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
This diagram shows the scale of the proposed six-megawatt wind turbines and their floating foundations.
The project includes plans for miles of submarine lines to connect the turbines with CMP in Port Clyde.
The proposed location of the floating wind turbines is 2.5 miles south of Monhegan Island.
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Comments (10)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 06, 2017 23:34

Ms Trout, I take pride in trying to fully understand issues such as this prior to determining my position on them.  I make a very honest attempt to do so by looking at legitimate, unbiased, factual information.  I can personally attest to the fact that these projects produce jobs for in-state residents.  I personally was employed for a company contracted in the Mars Hill project.  I can personally attest to the noise level that is generated when standing directly under one of these massive wind turbines.  When standing directly below the rotating blades, the sound level is the equivalent of a passing car.  Personally I can understand how people who are used to living in the middle of no-where would have a difficult time adjusting to the sound level; however anyone who says this sound alters their life is simply over-reacting. (To each their own though, fortunately we live in a country where we all free to voice our opinions)  I did thoroughly review the website you suggested and it quite obviously biased, I would caution you from basing your opinions on other people's opinions rather than facts.

With regard for your concern for benefiting other countries in the construction of these wind turbines, I assume you are not purchasing your electricity from Central Maine Power as their parent company of Iberdrola is not US based.

Ms Sleeper, your size references are on point.  I would like to point out that these wind turbines, as massive as they are, are 25 miles out to sea.  Because of the curvature of the earth roughly 400 feet of an object 132000 feet in the distance would be hidden below the horizon.
reference: With the main tower being 328' tall that would leave 175' of rotating blade visible.  Mind you, this is barring any atmospheric ray refraction which at times can make objects appear taller.  If you move just five miles inland the wind turbine is theoretically invisible as it is below the horizon.

As for your comment on the wind vortex behind the blades of 200mph or more, I would like the opportunity to read more on that.  If you could provide your source I would find that a very interesting read.  Furthering on that point your should understand what the "wind vortex behind the blade" actually is, it is a small swath of air directly behind the blade itself and it does not extend past that.  If that is of true concern we should also be disallowing planes from taking off and landing as the wind vortex behind wings far exceeds 200mph.  If your concern is based on wildlife concerns, I can personally attest that in the year of working onsite at Mars Hill not a single bird was found dead near those turbines.  Furthering on that point most birds who cant SEE the obstruction the wind turbines create utilize echo location and would steer far clear of said wind turbine.  Again, if wildlife is the concern, perhaps we should also ban fireworks as they were the cause of the - what appeared to be as - apocalyptic death of a mass blackbird population in Beebe, Arkansas.

My final point is this as for the concern for "where the electricity ends up".  Electricity is not a commodity that be created in one place and delivered to a specific place (within reason, i.e. this electricity wont be 'delivered' to Florida).  Electricity that is put onto the grid is not 'routed' to a specific place.  The electricity that is generated anywhere on the grid cannot be stored.  If more electricity is required to keep up with demand, more electricity needs to be pushed onto the grid.  This is the precise reason why when you drive by wind farms you'll see that some hubs are locked in place.

I understand that this post may seam confrontational, I assure you that isn't my intention.  I implore you - and everyone for that matter - to look at established and scientifically accepted facts from unbiased sources.  It is a fact that globally we absolutely must eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels.  Wind turbines are a viable source of doing just that.  If there weren't so many people relying on biased information to generate their own opinions, more wind turbines would be placed on land.  While I certainly dont expect this post alone will sway your opinion, I hope that my experience and actual facts have given some insight as to why this option may not be so bad.

Posted by: Sonja Sleeper | Mar 06, 2017 09:24

495 feet in Diameter, 576 max height and tethered to the ocean?  That height is nearly two football fields in length.  I also want to point out that what they do not tell you about is the vortex generated behind the turbines which can be as high as 200 mph on these maybe more.  Where are the transfer stations going to be, how much underwater digging and cables, how big a loss to fishing areas?  Does the power stay local or does it feed a grid like what happened in Vinalhaven?  This is something we really need to watch.  Who is to build and who is to benefit?


Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 04, 2017 01:40

I suppose that some of the students that have been working at the University of Maine designing and developing this project are from out of state.

As far as the tax dollars are concerned let me ask you.  Would you rather have your tax dollars spent in some other state?  Let's take the shrimp of the tread mill project study.  I much prefer my tax dollars to be invested in the University of Maine off shore wind project.   Supporting Maine college students and yes out of state University of Maine collage students too. That way our tax dollars are spent on something local especially renewable energy and not fossil fuel.

I am assuming, and this may be wrong of me, but the wind mills are built by human hands and shipped and put in place by paid employees and not some magic wand.  Thus making it a job creating project.


Posted by: Maggie Trout | Mar 02, 2017 15:36

Mr. Hall:  .  It is not true that the project will create jobs to keep young people in the area.  These companies bring in their own people who are trained to do the job.  Concerns about this project are not solely about people wanting to keep a view.  Multimillions of dollars, largely from the Federal government - aka your taxes, are being given - for free - to this project.  The promise of local jobs always falls short.  (The companies working for CMP doing tree cutting aren't usually in-state crews, even).  The top video here has people talking about the job promise, among other things 

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 02, 2017 14:23

The University has been working on this design project for years.  It is an assumption but I do not see a small company with the resouces to tackle this type of project.


Why do people assume that a companies assets need to be a negative?  I find it very upsetting that anyone would be against renewable energy.  At this rate people will be complaining about using two stick being rubbed together and a source of air pollution.  Sorry for the sarcasm, but this project will create jobs to keep young people in the area which people complained there was nothing to keep them here. This project will provide renewable energy or is this something that shouldn't be sought after so we can keep consuming fossil fuels?

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 02, 2017 14:16

"The project also includes miles of submarine cable connecting each turbine to a seabed hub and then to the CMP distribution line in Port Clyde on land owned by the town of St. George."

I assume last I knew that Spain was further then 25 miles away from the location of this renewable energy source.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 01, 2017 23:25

So disappointed in anti wind complainer of NIMBY.  Damn if they do, and damn if they don't!!!  Very interesting to see who opposes this project.  Probably the same people that oppose fossil fuel.  Are these activist now fighting renewable energy?  Same people that faught fossil fuel development in Searsport.  What gives?  They prefer nuclear winter and have no energy?  Come on geeze!  Here is cake and eat it too.  Just put a sign under water for the fish.  Wind turbine ahead low clearance!  Which is it?  Renewable energy or fossil fuels.....Make a choice!

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Mar 01, 2017 06:53

Here is the final report (2009) from the Maine Ocean Energy Task Force that was created by Gov. John Baldacci:

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 28, 2017 20:00

I hadn't looked up "DCNS" - an international naval defense and energy company?  So them, U. Maine and U Maine's Structure and Composite Center, Cianbro Corporation, Emera... and -- "DCNS" headquartered in Paris, France, has revenues of over $3 billion.  Let they pay for it, and let them stick these turbines... elsewhere.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 28, 2017 19:11

Hold on - over here, (an uber pro-turbine site), it states that Maine State law has a maximum of 3 turbines for 7 years not 20.    Also the Department of Energy isn't "reaching out."  They are taking public comment for their deliberations.  Anyone 'round these parts actually stand to benefit?  At least 25 miles away from the mainland.  Spain will benefit, right?  Through Emera?  U Maine.  Who else.  U Maine students, or potential students? "The project has received millions in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and could receive $39.9 million more after the environmental assessment.."

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