UMaine unveils its floating offshore wind turbine concept

The floating foundation uses composites, and the one-eighth scale prototype will be used to de-risk larger turbine deployments in the near future.

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The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (Orono, Maine) held a press event and formal reception May 8 at 3 p.m. to unveil VolturnUS, the first grid-connected floating offshore wind turbine to be deployed off the coast of the United States. The event was hosted by University of Maine president Dr. Paul Ferguson, Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the UMaine Composites Center, and Cianbro CEO and Chair Peter Vigue. Guests included Carol Woodcock, State Office Representative of U.S. Senator Susan Collins; Elizabeth Schneider MacTaggart, Regional Representative for the Office of Senator Angus King; Chris Winstead, District Representative for U.S. Representative Mike Michaud; Willy Ritch, Communications Director for the Office of U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree; and over 50 others.

The approximately 65-foot-tall turbine prototype is 1:8th the scale of a 6-megawatt (MW), 423-foot rotor diameter design. It is the first floating turbine of its kind in the world, using advanced material systems with a unique floating hull and tower design. The program goal is to reduce the cost of offshore wind to compete with other forms of electricity generation with no subsidies.

Maine has 156 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity within 50 miles of its shores and a plan to deploy 5 GW of offshore wind by 2030. The 5 GW plan could potentially attract $20 billion of private investment to the state, creating thousands of jobs. The VolturnUS technology is the culmination of more than five years of collaborative research and development conducted by the UMaine-led DeepCwind Consortium. The DeepCwind research program is a unique public-private partnership funded by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation-Partners for Innovation, the Maine Technology Institute, the state of Maine, the University of Maine and more than 30 industry partners.

Data acquired during the 2013 deployments off Castine and Monhegan will be used to
optimize the design of UMaine’s patent-pending VolturnUS system. The UMaine Composites Center has partnered with industry leaders to invest in a 12 MW, $96 million pilot farm. The deployments this summer will de-risk UMaine’s VolturnUS technology in preparation for connecting the first full-scale unit to the grid in 2016.