A pilot off-shore wind power project proposed for the Gulf of Maine has the potential to become the largest floating turbine project ever constructed.
SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A pilot off-shore wind power project proposed for the Gulf of Maine has the potential to become the largest floating turbine project ever constructed.
The plan, proposed by Norwegian energy company Statoil, calls for four wind turbines to be built about 12 miles off the coast of Boothbay. They would be built in waters that are more than three hundred feet deep and combined would generate about 12 megawatts of power.
"This isn't going to happen tomorrow, so to speak, but there is three or four years of very important work and very important communications and getting information out so that when we do have the project operating, it is done with minimal impact and it achieves that greatest potential," explained Ken Fletcher, director of the Maine Office of Energy Independence and Security.
The initial details of the proposal were presented to members of the Maine Task Force of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Thursday.
Statoil built the first floating wind turbine off the coast of Norway in 2009, and is investigating potential sites to develop a larger-scale project off the coast of Maine.
Ken Farquhar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management for the U.S. Department of the Interior, says seven or eight states on the eastern seaboard are looking seriously into off-shore wind energy projects, but the plan being considered here is the only one that would be located in a deep water setting.
"Maine is uniquely positioned, not just to take advantage of this for its own energy, but to potentially also offer manufacturing for the nation, and for the world, and become a real world leader," stated Farquhar.
He says building the project further away from the coast could help mitigate potential conflicts between other maritime traffic and potentially have less impact on the environment.
"The Atlantic resource alone could beat the generating capacity of the whole country right now," he said, adding "they [Statoil] have come forward with a specific proposal and we get to evaluate it. We the public, we the agencies, we the stakeholders, so it is a really great opportunity for us."
While environmental groups believe harnessing the ocean's winds for power could provide a tremendous source of renewable energy, some are concerned about the potential impacts on a variety of sea creatures.
"We have a lot of concerns that they have not looked into all the ecological implications of what transpires when you set up ocean windmills," stated Ron Huber, executive director of Penobscot Bay Watch. He hopes more research is done before major investments are made into off-shore wind power projects.
"This is the very beginning of the process and there will be a lot of opportunities for public involvement," said Farquhar.
If Statoil's request to lease the location off Boothbay were approved and the project were given the green light to be built with no major roadblocks, the company estimates construction on the project could begin in the summer of 2016.