Maine Plans to Install First U.S. Offshore Wind Turbine

The University of Maine and partners including Iberdrola SA and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. plan to launch the first U.S. offshore wind turbine today in a pilot project that will help design a $96 million, 12-megawatt floating power system.

The 65-foot (20 meter) tower and blades will be towed to a site off the coast of Castine, about 35 miles south of Bangor, Maine, and is expected to be connected to the Central Maine Power Co. grid on June 2, Elizabeth Viselli, a university spokeswoman, said today in an interview. The VolturnUS system has 20 kilowatts of capacity and is one-eighth the scale of turbines that are expected to be deployed in 2016, she said.

The strong, consistent winds off the U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes offer more than 4,000 gigawatts of potential generating capacity, about four times the U.S. installed total from all sources, according to U.S. Energy Department estimates. Sea-based turbines are common in Europe and developers have been planning similar projects in the U.S. for more than a decade.

The university-led group is in discussions with at least three turbine suppliers for the commercial project that is expected to be completed in 2016, Viselli said.

“We’re also talking to utilities about power purchase agreements and seeking additional commercial off-takers,” Viselli said. “We want to be as cheap as fossil power by 2020.”

VolturnUS is one of two floating offshore wind projects that Maine is planning with funding from the Energy Department to supply as much as 24 megawatts of capacity in 2016. Their goal is to reduce the cost of offshore wind to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020.

Statoil ASA, Norway’s state-controlled oil company, in January received approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission to build a $120 million offshore wind farm. The deepwater demonstration facility in the Gulf of Maine will use four, 3-megawatt floating turbines.

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