Following skepticism from Maine's top energy official, the firm proposing a pilot project to put four floating wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine has provided the state a new study claiming that offshore commercial wind power could add more than 800 jobs and $43 million annually to the state's economy.
The Bangor Daily News reported that Statoil North America responded Monday to concerns about the pilot Hywind Maine offshore project expressed by Ken Fletcher, director of the Maine Energy Office, in letters to the state's Public Utilities Commission.
In writing to the PUC, Fletcher expressed doubts about the return on investment for the project, which he wrote would raise prices for ratepayers by an estimated $200 million above current market prices over 20 years. Fletcher called for closer evaluation of whether the economic benefits of such a project would offset the rate increases.
In response Monday, Bernstein Shur attorney Patrick Scully wrote on behalf of Statoil that the economic benefits from the project should be evaluated based on full-scale development of floating offshore wind in the gulf, which he wrote "is far more likely to occur as a result of successful deployment of this pilot project."
According to the study the company contracted with University of Maine economics professor Todd Gabe, a full-scale build-out of a 500-megawatt offshore wind power facility would cost around $1.6 billion and could return up to $146.5 million in output, 881 full- and part-time jobs and $43 million to workers.
Adding in the supply-chain benefits from blade manufacturing facilities and other suppliers puts those estimates even higher, according to the study.
In response, Fletcher told the BDN that he is not opposed to the project but hopes to see a commitment by the company "to limit Maine ratepayers' exposure" to increased energy costs from the new technology.