DeepCwind to submit Maine bid

The University of Maine-led DeepCwind will submit a bid for a deepwater offshore wind pilot project after state regulators this week issued a new request for proposals by 1 September, a consortium spokeswoman tells Recharge.

The legislature recently passed a bill that instructs the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to provide DeepCwind the opportunity to table a proposal in competition with Statoil’s 12MW Hywind project. It has until 31 December  to make a decision on whether it can qualify for ratepayer subsidy support.

Elizabeth Viselli, manager of offshore wind programs and global communications for the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, notes that the law does not require DeepCwind to present a bid.

DeepCwind’s proposal will be for a 12MW full commercial-scale project called Aqua Ventus I that will feature turbines mounted on floating concrete-composite platforms. They would be anchored in state waters off Monhegan Island in the Atlantic Ocean.

The PUC in 2011 selected the Hywind spar buoy concept from among several entries for a deepwater demonstration wind farm in federal waters 12 miles (19.3km) off the state’s coast. It will cost $120m.

On 24 January, after more than a year of negotiations with Statoil’s North American subsidiary, the PUC approved a term sheet detailing commercial provisions for a long-term electricity supply contract covering the Hywind project.

The PUC then directed electric utility Central Maine Power to enter into a power purchase agreement with Statoil consistent with those terms.

Passage of the law, which Governor Paul LePage favored, prompted Statoil’s North American subsidiary to halt project development citing the risk and uncertainty created by it. The company also noted that PUC now would be unable to approve any possible PPA by this summer as both sides had earlier anticipated.

LePage, a critic of wind energy, objected to PUC’s support for the Hywind project on grounds  that the proposed electricity rates for an eventual PPA are too high and the project would do too little to stimulate the state’s economy long-term.His administration also wants the two projects to compete in the hope this will reduce ratepayer subsidies.

Last December, both the University of Maine and Statoil won up to $4m in funding from the US Energy Department to complete engineering, design and permitting for the Aqua Ventus I and Hywind projects.

Late this year or in early 2014, DOE will select up to three of these projects for follow-on phases that focus on siting, construction and installation, and aim to achieve commercial operation by 2017. These projects will receive up to $47m each over four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.