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December 13, 2017

St. George town officials vote to oppose Maine Aqua Ventus

Courtesy / Maine Aqua Ventus
Courtesy / Maine Aqua Ventus
An illustration showing how power generated by two 6 megawatt floating wind turbines off Monhegan Island would be transmitted via an undersea cable to connect with the Central Maine Power grid on the mainland at St. George.

The St. George Select Board voted Monday to oppose the Maine Aqua Ventus offshore wind project, but the consortium seeking to erect two offshore wind turbines off Monhegan Island said it will continue to work with local fishermen to address their concerns about the project's transmission cable.

The Bangor Daily News reported that the vote by the elected members of the select board heralded agreement with local fishermen who have said the project and its transmission cable would harm their livelihoods.

"I think it's a good idea we sever ourselves from [Maine Aqua Ventus] and that we support the fishermen in any way we can," Select Board member Randy Elwell said, according to the BDN.

Maine Aqua Ventus proposes using an existing charted cableway for an underwater cable to transport energy ashore from two 6 megawatt floating wind turbines off Monhegan Island to Port Clyde, at the end of the St. George peninsula. The Department of Marine Resources prohibits fishermen from using mobile gear within charted cableways. But the cable currently in the existing cableway has been inactive for decades, so fishing restrictions haven't been enforced.

Response of Maine Aqua Ventus

In a statement following the select board's meeting, Maine Aqua Ventus said it is "working diligently with state and federal agencies to allow fishing over the cable with both mobile and fixed fishing gear."

According to the statement, "MAV is leading a small floating offshore wind pilot project to test a clean, renewable energy source off Maine's shores. This pilot project will deploy only two 6 MW floating turbines 2.5 miles south of Monhegan Island. The town of Monhegan voted unanimously (40-0) in November to accept a Community Benefits Agreement with MAV. A subsea cable will transport the power to the mainland. Lessons learned from this two turbine deployment will inform any future development in the Gulf of Maine.

"MAV and UMaine have no current plans to pursue a large-scale commercial offshore wind farm. Fishermen and other stakeholders are invited as key partners to participate in all aspects of this two-turbine demonstration project so we can collectively learn and build a better future for all people of Maine."

The purpose of the project is to evaluate the University of Maine's award-winning floating concrete hull technology at full scale and develop best practices for coexistence with marine users so that future wind projects farther offshore can minimize impacts to fisheries and fishermen, the statement continued.

"MAV is committed to installing the cable to the mainland in such a manner as to have no measurable impact on fishing from this project," the statement says. "The electric cable from the project to the electric grid would be less than six (6) inches in diameter and would be buried below the seabed and under land where feasible until interconnected with the Central Maine Power grid."

Gulf of Maine's potential

Construction of the floating platforms and installation of the wind turbines two-and-a-half miles off Monhegan Island is expected to occur sometime in 2019, with the turbines expected to start producing power by 2020, according to the Maine Aqua Ventus website.

The University of Maine, which is leading a consortium of Maine companies, including Cianbro, in the development of the Aqua Ventus pilot project, has cited studies showing Maine's offshore wind potential to be a higher-quality resource than most parts of the United States, with more than 156 gigawatts or 156,000 megawatts of potential renewable wind power waiting to be harnessed.

The Gulf of Maine's proximity to New England population centers with high demand for electricity also is seen as a positive factor in the development of Maine's offshore wind potential.

Read more

PUC hits pause button on Maine Aqua Ventus' power contract

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