December 4, 2013

Offshore wind project names its price to PUC

UMaine's VolturnUS test turbine, one-eighth scale.Courtesy Cianbro
Courtesy Cianbro
The UMaine-led consortium working on a floating offshore wind turbine design, called VolturnUS, today released financial details of its proposal to state regulators for a pilot offshore wind project off of Monhegan Island.

Details the PUC will consider

The proposed Aqua Ventus term sheet highlights a number of economic conditions and benefits that will be evaluated by the PUC in the weeks ahead:

• A minimum $120 million investment by the partnership led by the UMaine spinoff Maine Prime Technologies LLC, Cianbro Corp. and Emera Inc., the Nova Scotia-based renewable energy developer. Project developers say that could rise to as much as $166 million.

• At least 50% of that investment would be spent in Maine — leading to the creation of up to 341 full- and part-time jobs, according to an economic analysis completed by UMaine economist Todd Gabe that was released with the term sheet.

• Public outreach to Maine companies, including supplier workshops and specialized training, to help them capitalize on the business and employment opportunities expected to result from the construction and deployment of two 6MW floating wind turbines in state waters about 2.5 miles south of Monhegan Island.

• The project will connect Monhegan Island to the grid for the first time in its history, providing up to 340 megawatt hours of electricity each year for 20 years, free of charge. Monhegan islanders currently pay 70 cents per kilowatt hour, one of the highest electricity rates in the country.

• A commitment to spend at least $7 million on research and design services provided by UMaine.

• A provision stipulating that Maine Aqua Ventus 1's "valuable intellectual property" would be made available "to the University of Maine for its ongoing benefit."

See the January term sheet for Statoil's scuttled offshore wind project in Maine here.

Maine Aqua Ventus 1, the offshore wind pilot project led by the University of Maine, released today financial details of its proposed 20-year power purchase agreement that would sell up to 43,000 megawatt hours per year of electricity to the grid at a price of 23 cents per kilowatt hour.

That's 4 cents per kilowatt hour less than the price approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission earlier this year for the now-scuttled $120 million Hywind Maine pilot project of Norwegian energy company Statoil.

Jeff Thaler, a lawyer working for the university on the project, pegged the cost to a Central Maine Power ratepayer at $8.70 per year if the PUC approves the 20-year power agreement as proposed. "For the price of a movie ticket you're basically investing in developing a new industry and with that the potential for Maine to be a leader in the offshore wind industry," he said.

Jake Ward, UMaine's vice president for innovation and economic development, said the Maine Aqua Ventus partnership also is pledging to develop a unique science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum related to the project for high school students. It also would develop programs to educate and train undergraduate and graduate college students in those STEM fields.

Thaler said the 1/8-scale VolturnUS floating turbine deployed off Castine performed "splendidly" in a recent storm with 55 mph winds, giving the partners an unexpected opportunity to see how well the floating platform might perform under hurricane-force winds.

Ward said the PUC is expected to make its final decision on a long-term power contract by early January, in time for Maine Aqua Ventus to compete against five other offshore wind projects nationwide for three $46 million grants the U.S. Department of Energy will award in 2014.

"If you look at what DOE is focusing on, namely getting to competitive prices by the mid-2020s, we feel very confident we have the game-changing technology that will do that," Ward said.

Read more

PUC hits pause button on Maine Aqua Ventus' power contract


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