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Maine utility regulators approve tests for floating wind turbine project off Maine coast

Maine’s Public Utilities Commission has approved a project that will test a floating platform that will hold up to two wind turbines, near Monhegan Island.

Earlier this year, Maine’s Legislature passed a law requiring the PUC to approve the University of Maine’s Aqua Ventus project – and the University of Maine recently received a grant of about $5 million to help develop the platforms.

The Aqua Ventus project could add to Maine’s economy by bringing more research and development dollars into Maine, PUC Chair Phillip Bartlett said.

“And also if this takes off, there’s a real opportunity for economic development, both in the production and then the rollout of offshore wind turbines in the year ahead,” he said.

This turbine could make offshore wind practical in places where you cannot put the foundation for a windmill on the ocean floor, Bartlett said.

“So I think it really expands the ability to have offshore wind in more places like the coast of Maine,” Bartlett said, “and can really generate a ton of electricity at times when we need it here in Maine and around the region.”

The Aqua Ventus project has had a long road to approval – in part because Maine’s former governor, Paul LePage, opposed wind development. It’s supported by nearly $40 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy.