Statoil pulls out
Statoil, an international energy company with operations in 36 countries, announced today that it is ending its $120 million Hywind Maine project.
Statoil was on its way to developing the first offshore floating wind turbine pilot project in United States waters when its contract terms were nullified by the state legislature’s action last spring.
The Maine PUC approved Statoil’s contract term sheet in January 2012, but the legislature, under strong pressure from Gov. Paul LePage, subsequently passed LD1472, which required the PUC to conduct a second competitive solicitation of proposals.
The law prohibited the PUC from awarding a contract until it completed a review of any additional bids submitted by September 1, 2013. In July, Statoil announced that in light of this action, it was placing the Hywind Maine project on hold.
In a press release today, Statoil announced its decision to terminate the project, demobilize its activities and resources in the state, and to focus instead on its Hywind Scotland project.
“Regardless of our exit in Maine, we will continue to explore the U.S. offshore wind market. The U.S. holds several locations with good wind conditions, deep water and proximity to load centers,” said Trine Ulla, head of business development for Floating Wind in Statoil. “We have been met with enthusiasm and strong support from a broad range of local and federal stakeholders.”
In dueling press releases, Maine public officials offered their comments on Statoil’s decision.
“The Administration has been perfectly clear through the regulatory process that the term-sheet offered by Statoil was ironclad in its cost — placing a $200 million burden on Mainers by way of increasing electric costs,” Gov. LePage said in a release. "Through bipartisan legislation the governor and the legislature worked to ensure that additional competition could be considered prior to embarking on a 20 year plan for Maine's offshore wind industry and to finalize the best contract for Maine by the end of the year.”
In separate releases, Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree called the decision extremely disappointing. “It's unfortunate that this major international company was made to feel unwelcome in Maine and I’m hopeful that this won't be a major setback in the future development of a new offshore wind industry in our state,” Pingree said in the release.
“I strongly believe that the floating offshore wind industry, including Statoil’s proposal, presents Maine with a once-in-a-hundred year opportunity to become a global leader in an emerging energy field that would not only put Mainers to work, but also grow our state’s economy for years to come,” King said.
Both Pingree and King expressed optimism for future offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Maine and in particular, for the University of Maine’s developing wind energy proposal. The University of Maine is currently seeking the PUC’s approval for its wind energy project and has received a $4million Department of Energy grant for the project.
“Despite this announcement, though, the fact remains that the Gulf of Maine continues to be one of the world’s premier resource locations to harvest wind energy, and moving forward, it is my hope that it will also continue to serve as an ocean laboratory for offshore pilot projects, and eventually, full-scale wind farms that will deliver clean, home-grown energy to homes throughout Maine and the northeast at a reasonable cost,” King said.
“I truly believe it would be a monumental mistake if Maine did not seize upon this industry’s enormous potential.”