Hywind Maine

Statoil and University of Maine get millions in wind energy grants

Posted:  Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 8:30am
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Two Maine offshore wind energy pilot projects were among the seven awarded up to $4 million in federal grants for engineering, design and permitting by the U.S. Department of Energy December 13. 

The announcement is a boon for offshore wind research and development off Maine’s coast and could lead to further investment in Maine’s offshore wind industry. 

The Maine project recipients include the international energy giant Statoil and the University of Maine at Orono. Statoil’s proposal is to develop a four-turbine three-megawatt floating wind park approximately 12 nautical miles off Boothbay Harbor, Maine. 

The University of Maine plans to install a pilot floating wind farm with two six-megawatt turbines on concrete semi-submersible foundations near Monhegan Island.

Larger federal investments in offshore wind are also planned.

In its announcement, the energy department said it will award up to $47 million in grant dollars, over four years, to three of these seven projects for construction, siting and installation, dependent upon congressional appropriations.

"The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources and it is important for us to develop technologies that will allow us to utilize those resources in ways that are economically viable," U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said.

Statoil representative Ola Morten Anaestad wrote in an email that Statoil is in an early planning phase and other locations for its pilot floating wind park are still being considered.  Although not yet sold on Maine, Anaestad acknowledged the federal energy grant was a move in the right direction. 

“We are pleased the Department of Energy has chosen Hywind Maine as one of the projects to receive funding. 

“The project will need a mix of state and federal support in order to be realized, and while the commercial frame conditions are not yet finalized for the project, we feel this is a very good step forward in the process,” Anaestad wrote.

Dr. Habib Dagher, Director of UMaine’s Composites Center, said in a press release, “The funding announced today is the key to the ignition of one of the most exciting projects ever undertaken by the State of Maine. And that key was presented to us by Senator Collins.”

Maine Wind Industry Initiative Director Paul Williamson said the grant was a clear statement of confidence that Maine should be a Center of Excellence for wind energy development.

“We are extraordinarily pleased,” Williamson said. “Internally, I had serious doubts that Maine could land two of these awards. It’s a great recognition of the fact that we have world class resources – both natural resources and in industry and technology development.” 

Senator Susan Collins, who has worked to secure funding for the University’s research and development program, said in a press release, “Maine has been at the forefront of deepwater floating turbine technology, and I am confident Maine will be at the forefront of making deepwater offshore wind a hallmark of U.S. energy innovation.

Federal agency finds no competition for wind lease

There was more good news for Statoil December 18. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management determined there are no competitors for its proposed lease site. 

That announcement provides a shorter, non-competitive leasing process for Statoil, but does not reduce the federal agency’s environmental review.

In a press release, the Bureau’s Director Tommy Beaudreau said, “This exciting project offshore Maine is pioneering the development and testing of floating wind power technology capable of deployment in deep water.”

Statoil and other wind industry interests are undoubtedly also waiting for one more decision from Washington. The federal wind production tax credit will expire December 31, unless extended by Congress.

The offshore leasing process now awaits Statoil’s submission of a construction and operations plan for the pilot.

Sue Mello can be reached at 844-4629 or sumello@boothbayregister.com.

For more on Statoil:

What's on the horizon for offshore wind energy?

Fishermen voice concerns about offshore wind production

Pilot wind farm clears first regulatory hurdle

Statoil's wind farm officials meet with representatives in Boothbay

Feds open comment on offshore wind

Utilities commission seeks public input on Statoil contract

Wind farm open house

Wind project gets first public hearing

Proposed wind farm rates up for vote

Utilities commission sends contract terms back to Statoil