“Is Offshore Wind Coming to Maine?” That is the title of a an afternoon-long session at the upcoming Maine Fishermen’s Forum.
The three-day forum, from March 1-3, will be held at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. The offshore wind session is scheduled for Saturday, March 3 from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Brian Hooker, a marine biologist with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Office of Renewable Energy Programs, recently told the New England Fisheries Management Council that he would be at the session.
Hooker gave a presentation to the NEFMC at its January meeting on offshore wind energy activities and their implications for the marine environment – particularly, New England fisheries.
At the meeting, NEFMC members and fishermen in the audience expressed concern about a lease application from a Norwegian energy company, Statoil, to build an offshore demonstration wind-turbine project some 12 miles off Boothbay.
Fishermen from Maine and other New England states said they were concerned about the potential impacts to fishing grounds and fishing operations of the Statoil project, and of the burgeoning offshore wind industry in general.
In its lease application, Statoil proposed to install four 3-megawatt wind turbine generators.
“It’s fairly certain that there will be user conflict,” said Port Clyde fisherman Glenn Libby. “So what kind of mitigation measures are we talking about?”
Terry Stockwell, the Department of Marine Resources deputy commissioner for external affairs and a Maine representative on the NEFMC, said that, with regard to site selection and input from the fishing industry, the proposed Statoil area off Maine “is highly contentious with the industry.”
The spot, said Stockwell, is highly productive for commercial groundfish, herring, whales and lobsters, as well as for recreational fishing.
“The follow-through from the applicant and potential modifications of their initial site will be very telling on how we move forward with this pilot project,” Stockwell said, in speaking of the applicant’s willingness to work with affected parties. “It can go from being something very good to being a complete disaster. We’re standing by, waiting to see how things come out.”
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management received Statoil’s unsolicited lease proposal in October 2011, Hooker said. The proposed project, called Hywind Maine, would put four wind turbines atop floating platforms rather than anchored directly to the ocean floor, which would make it the first floating wind farm in the United States and the largest such project in the world, he said.
According to Hooker’s presentation, the purpose of the test project “is to demonstrate the commercial potential of the floating offshore wind turbine technology.”
Hooker said the project is under review by the bureau’s Maine Task Force.
The Maine Task Force was convened by the bureau in 2010, and comprises federal, state, local and tribal governments. Maine is one of 10 states – nine on the East Coast, plus Oregon – that have convened intergovernmental task forces “to facilitate communication between BOEM and state, local, tribal and federal stakeholders concerning commercial renewable energy leasing and development” on the Outer Continental Shelf, according to the bureau’s website.
According to Statoil’s website, the Hywind project began as a natural segue from the company’s experience in deep-water operations.
“With more than 35 years of experience gained from offshore oil and gas operations on the Norwegian continental shelf, and as the world’s largest deep-water operation, Statoil sees a unique opportunity in using this competence to build a position in the growing offshore wind market,” the application said.
Hywind began as a demonstration concept off Norway in 2009, when the company commissioned the construction of a demonstration project to test a full-scale floating wind turbine. The turbine started operation in 2010.
The application for the Maine site came in response to a request for proposals issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in 2010, the application said.
According to the bureau, commercial development of the Hywind Maine project would be subject to a separate lease issuance process.
At NEFMC’s January meeting, Hooker said that studies are in the works as part of the application process. One that was recently commissioned was a study for the “Development of Mitigation Measures to Address Potential Use Conflicts Between the Wind and Commercial Fishing Industries.” Another study will evaluate the socio-economic impact to fishing from offshore wind energy development, said Hooker. Both studies are expected to be complete in early 2014, he said.
Further outreach, Hooker said, will occur as part of the Environmental Impact Statement and scoping process, at which time, public input will be solicited. He said that process will take six months to a year.
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