BRISTOL, Maine – A committee appointed by the Bristol Board of Selectmen plans to determine whether the town has any say over a proposed offshore wind project 2 ½ miles off Monhegan Island – and 10 miles away from Bristol.
Maine Aqua Ventus has proposed a 270-foot-tall advanced composite wind tower on a floating concrete base, featuring two turbines designed to generate 6 megawatts each. It would be built using the University of Maine’s VolturnUS technology.
Energy from the pilot project would be transmitted to the mainland via underwater cable to a substation in Bristol, a small midcoast community 10 miles from the offshore project site. If it passes muster with state and federal regulators, the Maine Aqua Ventus proposal would be the first offshore wind energy generation project in the Gulf of Maine.
Bristol residents voiced concern at a public hearing earlier this year about the impact of the proposed wind tower on wildlife, shellfish habitat and general scenery.
“We want to know if there’s going to be any benefit in this town,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Benner said Friday. “And we want to know what it’s going to do to the environment.”
Andrea Cox, chairwoman of the committee, said Monday that residents have shared some concerns about the proposed wind farm, but that the committee will establish a website and attempt to get answers to questions before forming an opinion.
According to Cox, representatives of the University of Maine met with the Board of Selectmen at two meetings, and a public hearing on the project was held.
The hearing, Cox said, “was lively.”
“The fishermen in particular are concerned because the cable is going to cross some of their fishing grounds,” she said. “And there were some questions from the community in regards to what effect this will have on the birds, and about electromagnetic fields.”
Maine Aqua Ventus plans to provide free electricity to the residents of Monhegan Island.
Asked if Bristol residents hope for some financial benefit, given that developers propose providing Monhegan with free electricity, Cox said there is some discussion of potential tax benefits, but the committee awaits specific answers to those questions.
The Bristol committee, which first met on Dec. 19, will meet for the third time on Jan. 6.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission continues to accept public comment on the proposal, and will give Maine Aqua Ventus an opportunity to respond to those comments before making a final determination on the project’s term sheet in January, Maine PUC spokesman Harry Lanphear said Friday.
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