The Bristol Wind Power Advisory Committee is preparing a contingency plan as conversations about a polarizing offshore-wind project resurfaced in the last month.
The University of Maine-led Maine Aqua Ventus I project would consist of two floating wind turbines off the coast of Monhegan Island and south of Bristol, which would deliver electricity via undersea cable.
The project was met with resistance from residents for reasons including concerns about the negative impact the cable could have on fisheries and shrimp draggers, concerns for the safety of birds, and fear about the turbines’ impact on ocean views.
The Maine Aqua Ventus I project stalled in 2014 after it failed to receive a $47 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project did receive a $3 million grant to continue design and engineering work and was named an alternate in the event one of the three projects that received the $47 million grant fell through.
At a special town meeting Oct. 1, 2014, a majority of the 300 Bristol residents present voted against allowing the offshore-wind project to connect to the power grid in town, although what authority the vote carries remains unclear.
In November, it was announced that the University of Maine would receive a $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to finish the design of the pilot wind farm.
The three wind projects that did receive the $47 million grants in 2014 have faced delays, leaving the door open for the Aqua Ventus project to receive additional funding.
During a Dec. 16 meeting, the Bristol Wind Power Advisory Committee discussed ways in which it can be proactive in the event the project continues.
“We, as a town, voted against the project in a non-binding vote,” said Chairman Andrea Cox. “We can’t stop it, that much is clear, but as a committee, we have to put the facts out there.”
The committee discussed writing a letter outlining the town’s stance on the project. The letter would be signed by the Bristol Board of Selectmen and circulated through town, as well as among officials from UMaine and the Department of Energy.
The committee expressed interest in having a conversation with representatives of UMaine about the progress of the project.
“Regardless of the history and the fact that the town clearly stated it does not approve of the project, we want to be kept in the loop,” Cox said.
The committee intends to meet again in January 2016.
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