Hywind Maine

Wind project gets first public hearing

Posted:  Friday, October 26, 2012 - 9:00am

In Boothbay Harbor, talking about Statoil’s proposed offshore wind farm may have lost some of its novelty but it still draws an engaged audience. The Norwegian energy giant has been sending its envoys here since last February to discuss its plans to develop a floating pilot wind park about 12 nautical miles offshore. On October 23, about 55 people showed up for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) first public hearing on the proposed offshore energy lease in the Gulf of Maine.

After a brief introduction by BOEM project manager Maureen Bornholdt, public questions and comments dominated the 2-hour meeting. A diverse group of scientists, boatbuilders, fishermen, engineers, business people, government officials and residents asked questions about fisheries, competing uses and environmental studies, offered support for the project, and expressed enthusiasm for the potential for new industry and clean energy.

For most questions, answers still require more detailed plans and studies.

Bornholdt said there appeared to be no other competitive interest in developing wind energy at the proposed lease site. A lack of competitors for the site simplifies the federal leasing process.

The next step on the federal level will begin when Statoil submits its construction and operations plan. Bornholdt said she expected the Statoil plan sometime in the first or second quarter of 2013. Once this detailed plan is proposed, BOEM will hold more public meetings and will begin its environmental and regulatory review process.

Bornholdt described the environmental impact statement process that BOEM will follow as “a very public process,” with formal procedures for engaging federal and state agencies and local communities.

Bornholdt said the federal energy agency would continue to accept public comments on the proposal and particularly asked fishermen to provide detailed information on their use of the area.

“The key for us is we don’t live here. We need you to help us,” Bornholdt said.

Statoil was not among the attendees, although some of their consultants were, and there was some anxiety about whether their absence was related to the recent Maine Public Utilities Commission decision to return Statoil’s proposed contract terms to them for reconsideration.

On both the federal and state level, the next step is up to Statoil.

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

Click here for comments BOEM has received from the public so far.

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