State support paves way for federal funds for Maine offshore wind project

The Maine Aqua Ventus floating turbine offshore wind turbine project has received approval from the Public Utilities Commission, putting it in the mix for $47 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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The Maine Aqua Ventus project, a pilot offshore wind farm project designed to prove the feasibility of floating offshore wind turbines, has received a key approval from Maine utility regulators, opening the way for U.S. federal funding.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a term sheet for the 12-MW Maine Aqua Ventus project proposed by Maine Prime Technologies, a spin-off of the University of Maine (Orono, Maine, USA) and two general partners, engineering firm Cianbro Corp. (Pittsfield, Maine) and energy services firm Emera Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada).

Under the parameters of the term sheet, the project will produce about 43,000 MWh/year of energy at $0.23/kWh, with an annual increase of 2.5 percent per year for 20 years.

With the approval of the term sheet, the Maine Aqua Ventus project can now compete for $47 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which is expected to be awarded in May 2014. 

In May 2014 the consortium launched a 1:8 scale prototype of the University of Maine's VolturnUS floating wind turbine off Castine, Maine. The composites-intensive turbine began generating power that month and thereby became the first energy-producing offshore wind turbine in the U.S.

Long term, Maine Aqua Ventus plans to construct a 500-MW offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Maine and to produce wind-generated electricity at $0.10/kWh within the next 10 or so years.

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VolturnUS is the first grid-connected offshore turbine in North America and is a 1:8 scale version designed to prove the viability of the design in the ramp up to a 6-MW design.