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Pilot floating offshore wind project proposed in Maine

Ocean, Wind turbines Add comments

Statoil has submitted an application for an offshore lease 12-15 miles from the coast of Maine for a pilot floating offshore wind farm project.  Statoil, a Norwegian company, installed a single floating turbine in Norwegian waters in 2009, but has decided to move toward a larger installation in Scotland or Maine (or perhaps both). The initial lease area covers 22 square miles, but after fine-tuning their siting plan, the final wind farm area is likely to be 2-4 square miles in size.  It’s unclear from the lease request how many turbines would be installed during the pilot phase, or in a full build-out.

Local fishermen have expressed some concerns that the site may overlap with important shrimp and groundfishing areas, both of which have been hard hit financially in recent years.  Statoil promises to work with them to minimize the impacts of its project.

Floating offshore wind farms hold lots of promise for long-term increases in wind energy generation, thanks to being relatively close to urban markets, far enough from shore to be unseen and unheard, and minimizing habit disturbance during construction. The higher cost of construction and maintenance may be balanced by a much higher capacity factor (offshore winds blow much more steadily and strongly than onshore winds), and the growing size of offshore turbines. This is a leading edge for the technology, which is not expected to fully mature for 5-10 years.  The State of Maine has committed to working to solve the engineering challenges of far-offshore wind, rather than tackle the social challenges of near-shore construction.

UPDATE, 5/30/12: Project delays (see local news coverage): Statoil has put its plans for a four-turbine test project on hold until at least 2014, and the State of Maine initial one-third scale test turbine will be put off by one year, to 2013, by permitting delays.

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