Proposed facility off the coast of Maine could show feasibility of floating turbines
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Offshore wind power is already a significant part of the energy portfolio in countries like Denmark, Holland and Germany, and the U.S., with extensive areas of coastline, has the potential to become a major producer of offshore wind energy.
Developing the resource isn’t without challenges, as some communities have objected to the visual impacts of wind turbines near shorelines, and there are also concerns over impacts to wildlife, primarily birds. Infrastructure is another issue, as the offshore facilities require transmission lines to bring the power to shore.
On the positive side, offshore turbines could be sited near coastal urban areas with dense populations, where the energy is needed the most. But for now, many of those questions are still hypothetical, as offshore windpower is still in its infancy in this country.
That may start to change, however, as the Department of Interior starts to scrutinize a proposed project that could demonstrate floating offshore wind technology on the Outer Continental Shelf of the coast of Maine.
Statoil North America wants to build a full-scale floating wind turbine about 12 nautical miles off the coast, with have a 12-megawatt production capacity through four wind turbine generators. The Statoil proposal also responds to a Request for Proposals issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
“This is the first time that this innovative floating technology is being considered for development in deeper waters offshore our coasts,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes. “Statoil’s interest in partnering with the Interior Department, the State of Maine and other key stakeholders reconfirms that the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is the right way to go. As we develop America’s prolific, home-grown renewable energy resources – both onshore and offshore – we are strengthening our nation’s economy and energy independence.”
“BOEM has been engaged in productive discussions with Statoil regarding this forward-looking project, and we are working closely with our Maine Renewable Energy Task Force,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “We will continue our close coordination as the U.S. federal government, the state of Maine and other stakeholders proceed with the next steps in the review of this project, including moving forward with environmental review and determining whether there’s competitive interest from other developers.”
The bureau is seeking public comment as it develops an environmental study that will outline reasonable alternatives related for the proposed leasing, site characterization and assessment activities, and construction and operation activities in the offshore area under consideration.
BOEM intends to prepare an EIS that will consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with the Statoil Hywind Maine project and will request comments from the public for the purpose of identifying the important issues to be considered in the EIS.
The area Statoil North America has requested for a commercial wind lease covers approximately 22 square miles. The area may be reduced based on the EIS analysis and other factors.
BOEM is also asking whether other developers are interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area off the coast of Maine, in order to determine whether to proceed with leasing on a competitive or non-competitive basis.
Publication of a Request for Interest (RFI) in the Federal Register will open a 60-day public comment period to solicit submissions of indications of competitive interest and additional information on potential environmental consequences and other uses of the proposed lease area.
In August, 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the Offshore Wind Laboratory at the University of Maine where he met with researchers and saw firsthand the floating offshore wind turbine platforms technology they are testing.
Statoil North America submitted an unsolicited application for commercial wind energy lease on the OCS offshore Maine to BOEM in October 2011. BOEM determined Statoil North America to be legally qualified in November 2011 and technically and financially qualified in April 2012.
A map of the area proposed and copy of the application is available at: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Maine.aspx.
Once published in the Federal Register, BOEM will accept public comments on the RFI for 60 days and on the NOI for 90 days, in one of the following ways:
Electronically: http://www.boem.gov/engage/. Click on the “Open Comment Documents” link and follow the instructions to submit public comments and to view supporting and related materials.
In written form, deliver to: Program Manager, Office of Renewable Energy (HM 1328); Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; 381 Elden Street; Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817.
For more information on BOEM’s Renewable Energy program, visit: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/index.aspx.