AP News

UMaine releases offshore wind project proposal

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine and its partner companies offered a glimpse into the sole remaining offshore wind project being considered for a state contract with the release Wednesday of more details about its proposal to build two wind turbines off the coast near Monhegan Island.

The redacted version of the proposal provides a deeper look into what is already publically known about the Maine Aqua Ventus I, the project being proposed by the university and its partners, which would produce 12 megawatts of power 2.5 miles south of the island and about 12 miles from the mainland. If that's successful, developers envision eventually building one or more large commercial offshore wind farms, producing up to 500 megawatts of power, in federal waters.

Jake Ward, vice president of Innovation and Economic Development for UMaine, said the proposal highlights the university and its partner companies' strong overall approach that they believe gives them a good shot at winning a $46 million federal energy grant later this year.

"We put a solid team together with expertise both within the state and internationally both who understand this environment and how to do these types of projects," he said.

But critical information about what the project would cost ratepayers, the project's total cost and the projected economic impacts on the state, like the number of jobs expected to be created, will remain confidential until later this month.

The proposed project builds upon technology the behind a wind turbine the university launched off the coast near Castine in June called VolturnUS, a 65-foot-tall prototype that's one-eighth the size of a full-scale turbine. While the proposal is designed to generate 12 megawatts of power, the project will have a capacity of up to 25 megawatts, allowing additional test turbines to be connected in the future, according to the document.

Jeff Thaler, assistant counsel to the university said the project would allow for some power to be supplied directly to Monhegan Island, which currently relies on diesel generators that cause it to have some of the highest electric rates in the highest in the country.

Environmental groups and lawmakers called for a release of a redacted version of the proposal after it was submitted in August, saying that much information was already public and that the unusual circumstances of the bid process called for full transparency.

The university and its partners submitted their proposal following the reopening of the competitive bidding process after Norwegian company Statoil had already reached a tentative agreement with the state. That caused Statoil to announce last month that it was abandoning its project in Maine and focusing its efforts in Scotland.

The university had objected to the calls for the project's release, saying the proposal was crafted with the promise of it remaining private and that releasing information would harm its chances for the grant that five other proposed project — in Virginia, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio and Oregon — are also pursuing.

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