After Delay, Maine Approves Offshore Wind Farm

Ivy Frignoca

On Thursday, January 28, 2013, Maine’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved, by a 2-1 vote, the terms of a long-term contract for the first floating turbine offshore windfarm in Maine. After a few months of negotiation, this is good news for the state, and for renewable energy.

This vote clears a major hurdle toward Statoil putting four, three-megawatt wind turbines on floating platforms in deepwater 12 miles off Boothbay, and marks the early days of implementation of Maine’s Ocean Energy Act. Signed into law in 2009, the Act encourages projects like this one, so as to support the development of renewable energy technology that harnesses ocean energy. In this project, energy generated from the project would be transported via underwater cable to a transfer station on land, delivering renewable energy to the mainland.

Approval for this project has been a long time coming. Statoil, which has successfully operated a one-turbine pilot project off the Norwegian coast for the past year, originally sought approval for a version of its project in October of 2012. At the time, CLF submitted comments supporting the project and the long-term contract, but the PUC tabled its deliberations and asked Statoil to come up with terms that would have a lower price for the electricity generated and guarantee more future benefit to Maine. Click here to see PUC Chairman Welch’s notes from deliberations. Since then, the project has only improved.

Working with PUC staff, Statoil revised the terms of its contract to reduce the price of energy to Maine consumers and add more assurances that if its initial small scale windfarm is successful, it will make all efforts to employ Maine companies as it scales up the project. Click here to see Statoil’s Revised Term Sheet.  We liked these additional terms even more than Statoil’s initial proposal. Again we wrote in favor of the project and expressed our increased support. Click here to view our additional comments.

The vote at this past week’s hearing was 2-1, with Commissioner Littell and Chairman Welch voting in favor of the project. Littell has long been a champion of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, whether during his time at the DEP where he championed RGGI or now at the PUC. Welch deserves credit as he was not supportive of the long-term contract in its initial phase, but recognized that Statoil had made efforts to address his concerns and even more so recognized the potential that offshore wind holds for Maine.

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