AUGUSTA, Maine – A legislative committee on Tuesday unanimously voted against a bill aimed at forcing the University of Maine to move a pair of demonstration floating wind turbines farther from the coast of Monhegan Island, keeping the project alive.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro, would bar wind turbines within 10 miles of Monhegan Island. Members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology committee said that forcing a relocation in the midst of an ongoing permitting process would set a bad precedent and could dissuade future alternative energy efforts in the state.
“We’re pleased with the outcome,” said Jake Ward, vice president for Innovation and Economic Development at the University of Maine. “It keeps us in the game and we will continue to pursue the permitting and development of the project. We’ve got a lot ahead of us.”
UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is working to place the turbines, with blades that reach 576 feet above the waterline, about three miles south of Monhegan in order to prove the technology.
The project’s leaders said a forced relocation of the wind site would effectively kill Maine’s efforts to create an offshore wind industry. The university would have had to restart the permitting process, throw out years worth of test site research, and be knocked out of the running for up to $40 million in funding offered by the U.S. Department of Energy to push the project forward.
Ward said the university would continue to push forward with the lengthy permitting and review process, which should take about a year.
A message sent to Travis Dow, who heads up the group Protect Monhegan, which has been fighting the wind test site, was not immediately returned Wednesday. Other island residents have come out in support of the effort.
The Monhegan site is a trial run for a much larger floating wind farm in a yet-to-be-determined part of the Gulf of Maine at least 10 miles from shore and inhabited islands.
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