Orono – A draft environmental assessment for the University of Maine’s proposed DeepCWind project off Monhegan is awaiting Department of Energy reviews and revisions.
An e-mail message from National Environmental Policy Act specialist Laura Margason to Rockland resident Ron Huber said the assessment would probably be posted for public review and comment sometime between mid-March and mid-April. At that point it would be placed with other Department of Energy documents at the Golden Field Office Public Reading Room website at eere.energy.gov/golden/NEPA_DEA.aspx.
Report offers checklist for potential developers
On Feb. 23 the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the DeepCwind Consortium announced the release of a 557-page offshore wind feasibility study titled the Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Report.
Funded by more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and compiled by the University of Maine and the James W. Sewall Company, the report examines economics and policy, electrical grid integration, wind and wave potential, and bathymetric, soil and environmental research. It also includes summaries of potential assembly and construction sites, and critical issues for project development and permitting, according to a press release from DeepCwind.
According to its executive summary, the report is designed to provide information for parties seeking to respond to a Request for Proposals for Long-Term Contracts for Deep-Water Offshore Wind Energy Pilot Projects and Tidal Energy Demonstration Projects, released Sept. 1, 2010, by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The RFP calls for bidders to propose the sale of renewable energy produced by a deep-water offshore wind energy pilot project in the Gulf of Maine at a location that is 300 feet or greater in depth and no less than 10 nautical miles from any land area. It also contains provisions for a tidal energy demonstration project. Qualifying tidal projects would have a total installed generating capacity of 5 megawatts or less and be proposed for the primary purpose of testing tidal energy generation technology.
The PUC may authorize one or more long-term contracts for an aggregate total of no more than 30 megawatts of installed capacity. Initial responses to the RFP are due May 1.
Huber said that, prior to spending more on DeepCwind’s efforts, DOE needed to discover to what extent ocean windmills placed in the path of migrating lobster larvae would divert some of those young lobsters away from Penobscot Bay and out into the deep Gulf of Maine “where survival is less likely.”
As part of recommended environmental research, the DeepCwind report calls for upwelling studies, including upstream buoy and downstream buoys and glider observations.
Huber said researchers, including University of Maine marine scientist Peter Jumars, have concluded that upwelling effects caused by ocean windmills could make changes in the water column. Huber said this upwelling would bring nutrients to surface waters, causing phytoplankton blooms that attract other food species in Gulf of Maine, and possibly disrupting the normal growth and migration cycle of lobsters.
“A large wind farm might cause upwelling,” Jumars said March 1. “It’s just a theoretical argument so far. No one’s done testing on it.”
Other studies called for in the DeepCwind report include research into electromagnetic field effects. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is currently completing studies on animal sensitivity across a range of species. Future studies might focus more directly on lobsters.
The report lists close to a dozen endangered species and another 32 species of interest that will need to be considered in the permitting process. Those species of interest include Atlantic cod, halibut and herring, pollock, sea scallops, winter, witch and yellowtail flounder, and several species of skate.
First steps could lead to full-scale wind farm
The overall 20-year implementation plan outlined in the report includes five phases and would end in 2030 following the expansion of a 25 megawatt wind farm into a 500 to 1,000 MW commercial farm. The final goal of the plan would be a number of 500 to 1,000 MW farms capable of five gigawatts of production, and the addition of a transmission and distribution system.
The report calls for the selection of development sites that would avoid or minimize impacts on the environment, natural resources and human use activities.
The DeepCwind report also describes infrastructure and equipment that would be needed to complete an offshore wind project in the Gulf of Maine and outlines the work needed to bring the energy harvested offshore to the U.S. electricity grid.
“Because the up to 30 MW project itself will be located in federal waters, it will not need state or municipal approvals other than Coastal Zone Management Act consistency review,” the report states. “It is likely, however, that many … state and municipal approvals … will be required for the electric transmission line that will run through state waters and onto the shore, as well as any assembly or deepwater area located in state waters.”
Maine DEP has jurisdiction over the Site Location of Development Permit for offshore wind power projects that impact state waters or land. An offshore wind project with an aggregate generating capacity of 3 MW or more would require site law approval. The report said an offshore wind power project would not fall within the expedited permitting area and therefore would have to go through the “traditional and more rigorous site law approval process.”
The Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Report was created by of a team of contributors that includes the University of Maine, James W. Sewall Company, RLC Engineering, Vienna Ventures, W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd., Kleinschmidt Associates, Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer, & Nelson, P.A., Island Institute, Maine Composites Alliance, Maine Wind Industry Initiative, and Black & Veatch Corporation.
The DeepCwind Consortium was established in October 2009 through a competitive grant program awarded by the Department of Energy, with the stated goal of establishing the state of Maine as a national leader in deepwater offshore wind technology.
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