May 25, 2012

Monhegan test turbine postponed until 2013

by Christine Parrish, Feature Writer | The Free Press | 24 May 2012

The testing of a floating deep water wind turbine that was scheduled to take place two miles off Monhegan Island this summer has been postponed until 2013, according to Habib Dagher, the director of the University of Maine AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Dagher is at the forefront of an effort to develop deep water wind farms 20 to 40 miles off the coast in the Gulf of Maine.

Dagher said that some permits were still pending for the Monhegan site, but that he expected them to be approved in the next two to three months, which will push the launch date to next summer.

The turbine will be deployed at the test site for four months, then removed.

Scientific data being collected at the Monhegan site will provide baseline information for comparison after the test turbine is sited. Bird and bat studies were completed last summer, said Dagher. Fish and other marine life studies are ongoing, as are underwater acoustic studies. Wind data has been collected for over a decade in the Gulf of Maine.

The Monhegan turbine, at 100 feet tall, will be a one-third scale model of the turbines that are destined for an offshore location in the Gulf of Maine in the future. The turbine will be anchored to a semi-submerged triangular platform made of three pontoons. The platform will be tethered to the bottom.

Dagher said the semi-submersible unit performed well in the recent testing in the Netherlands and was selected among three tested floating models for its stability and ease of launching from shore.

“This design has advantages in Maine. It is easy to deploy, does not have a significant draft, the unit is stable on its own and can be put in the water and towed out with a small tugboat,” said Dagher.

He said potential launch sites for the full-scale turbines are still being investigated.

“We have looked at a number of places from Eastport to Southern Maine, including Sears Island and Mack Point and Bath. There are lots of possibilities and we are evaluating them,” said Dagher.

There will be stiff competition for being selected as a launch site, since manufacturing facilities are likely to be located nearby and the combination will bring an economic boost to the selected port.

The next phase of the project will be to establish a pilot wind farm 20 to 40 miles offshore that will generate 12 to 25 megawatts of electricity. That is scheduled for 2017. By 2020, Dagher hopes to expand the site to generate 500 to 1,000 megawatts.

Meanwhile, a Norwegian company, Statoil, recently decided not to go ahead with a project to launch four floating wind turbines at a demonstration/test site about 12 miles off of Boothbay Harbor, citing a lack of sufficient interest at the state level in negotiating electricity supply prices, according to the Stavanger Aftenblad, a Norwegian newspaper.

Statoil plans to revisit the project idea and assesss federal incentives in 2014.

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