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Maine towns keep wind farms at arm’s length as state looks to far offshore sites

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“As goes Maine, so goes the Nation?”  While this old political truism has faded in recent decades, the State of Maine is currently blazing trails in carefully considered wind power development.  At the local level, small towns continue to pass moratoriums and strict setback standards.  Most recently, Thorndike became the third town to set a one-mile setback, with the neighboring town of Dixmont taking up a similar ordinance at this week’s town meeting.  Meanwhile, two more towns, Avon and New Vineyard, joined four others who have hit the pause button on any wind farm developments by adopting moratoriums on any permits.  These actions come in the wake of three projects that have generated significant noise issues for neighbors out to as far as 3000-3500 feet; thus, half-mile setbacks are being seen as not enough to avoid risk of disrupting rural lifestyles.

While these towns see the state as being overly aggressive in supporting ridgetop wind farms (abetted by the fact that a former Governor is one of the state’s leading wind developers), when it comes to offshore wind development, the state’s goals will be much more welcome for most coastal communities.  Instead of opening Maine state waters to windfarm leasing, the legislature’s Committee on Utilities and Energy is redrafting controversial ocean windfarm bill LD 1810 to do the very opposite. Under changes to be finalized today at the committee’s 2nd worksession on the bill, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force” will focus Maine instead on constructing floating deepwater windmills on land, and then deploying them at locations ten miles offshore and further, where wind speeds and higher and more consistent and fisheries are less impacted.

The plan received an enthusiastic response from the Maine Lobstermens Association, which has been very concerned about the impacts of any traditional bottom-mounted wind turbines on their activities near shore.  Habib Dagher, who leads the University of Maine’s offshore wind project, offered a timeline for getting deepwater wind energy going off Maine. “Our goal is build our first demonstration floating turbine – a third-scale turbine about 120 feet above the water – next year, and place it in the water the year after in the Monhegan site,” Dagher said. “In 2013 we would build the first 4 or 5 megawatt unit, In 2014 and 2015, a 25 megawatt farm.” He predicted that offshore wind would keep growing: “The next phase is development of a large scale 500 to 1,000 megawatt farm. We have at least one developer interested to do that and have it operational in 2020”

UPDATE: The offshore Maine project will not have its first scale model test unit in the water until 2013.

One Response to “Maine towns keep wind farms at arm’s length as state looks to far offshore sites”

  1. aeinews.org » Blog Archive » Pilot floating offshore wind project proposed in Maine Says:

    […] 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 […]

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