St. George – The parking lot was full at the St. George Town Office Feb. 28 as fishermen, activists, residents and members of the press gathered to learn more about the proposed 600-foot-tall floating wind turbines that may be located off Monhegan for a 20-year test.
Officials from the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Energy set up posters displaying information and artists’ drawings of the proposed project, and members of the public and press were asked to sign in and then work their way around the room taking in the exhibits. Officials including UMaine Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development Jake Ward fielded questions.
“The purpose is to demonstrate new technology for floating offshore wind, offshore wind being one of the largest renewable energy resources available to the state of Maine,” Ward said.
The proposal is to locate two nearly 600-foot-tall wind turbines 2.5 miles south of Monhegan Island. The turbines have a rotor that is 495 feet in diameter supported by a floating concrete base. A University of Maine team designed the project, called Aqua Ventus, to include the six-megawatt wind turbines.
“Our particular technology is unique in that we have a floating concrete base that allows for support of the tower and turbines,” Ward said.
In previous designs for offshore wind projects, turbine towers were driven directly into the seabed. This project’s floating bases will be held in place by anchors.
The project also includes miles of submarine cable connecting each turbine to a seabed hub and then to the CMP distribution line in Port Clyde on land owned by the town of St. George.
The two floating foundations are to be built at an industrial facility in Hampden using a watertight enclosure that will allow crews to work below the waterline. From there the foundations will be floated down the Penobscot River to Mack Point in Searsport. There, the turbines will be added and the whole structure will be towed to the Monhegan test site.
The turbines will also be painted white and include flashing red lights to meet Federal Aviation Act requirements.
The project has received millions in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and could receive $39.9 million more after the environmental assessment.
Some have voiced skepticism and concern about the project.
Ron Huber of Friends of Penobscot Bay said he is concerned about the effect the project could have on fish and the fisheries if it is located within state waters. He said such turbines should be located at least 25 miles from the mainland.
He also raised questions about the duration of the project, arguing 20 years is a long time to be considered a test.
However, Huber acknowledged wind energy is preferable to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear plants to generate energy.
“The challenge is siting them where they will do the most good with the least harm,” he said.
The energy department is now in the process of reaching out to the public to hear concerns about the project. Those who would like to comment on the project have until March 22 to do so. Address comments to Ms. Diana Heyder, NEPA Division, U.S. Department of Energy, Golden Field Office, 15013 Denver West Parkway, Golden, CO 80401 or via email at AquaVentus1EA@ee.doe.gov.
For more information, visit www.energy.gov/node/2053718.