Maine picks three offshore wind turbine test locations

Maine has selected three Atlantic Ocean sites for placement of prototype wind turbines, with Governor John Baldacci and researchers estimating the state’s offshore energy potential as equivalent to 100 nuclear plants. The sites will also measure wave energy potential.

"This is where the future lies," says Baldacci. "We want to become an energy generating center."

Maine, already the land-based wind industry leader in New England, envisions itself as an energy exporter to the region in the next 20 years by harnessing its abundant offshore resource.

The three sites were chosen by a group of government and private agencies. The first is near Boon Island off the town of York in southern Maine. The second is near Damariscove Island south of Boothbay Harbor and the third is south of Monhegan Island off Port Clyde.

Each site has an area of one to two square miles and are located in Maine’s territorial waters, which gives the state, not the federal government, regulatory control over the projects.

The first two sites have been set aside for private industry to demonstrate technology, while the Monhegan Island location will be used by a consortium of 28 companies and organizations led by Habib Dagher, director of University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

State law allows placement of two wind turbines in the first two sites for a maximum of five years, while the Monhegan Island location can site three turbines for up to seven years.

As reported by Recharge, Dagher’s team earlier this year obtained an $8m grant from the US Energy Department to form a Maine Offshore Wind Energy Research Center to be located near the Monhegan Island test site.

The floating test turbines will be anchored in water as deep as 300 feet no more than three miles from each island. Plans call for the first turbines to be on site in 2011 with bigger units possibly located there two years later.

Dagher estimates that Maine has 149 gigawatts of wind energy potential within 50 miles of its coast. Baldacci’s goal is to have 5GW installed by 2030, twice the state’s present energy consumption. Maine is heavily dependent on fossil fuel imports.

Baldacci also hopes to position Maine as a manufacturing center for offshore wind turbine components and subsea support platforms that could create thousands of jobs.

“We have a competitive advantage,” says Baldacci. “We are perfectly situated close to the Gulf of Maine, one of the world’s best wind resources.”

All three demonstration sites will also measure the potential to produce power by wave energy, a technology that is in its infancy in the US. Maine’s long and rugged coastline is a good location to test ocean wave turbines.