- The Maine Public Utilities Commission has delayed approving power contracts associated with an experimental floating turbine project that would deploy a pair of 6 MW units designed by the University of Maine, south of Monhegan Island.
- Regulators say power prices have fallen significantly since the contract was given preliminary approval in 2014. According to ReNews, an initial term sheet specified a base rate of $0.23/kWh from the project, escalating more than 2% each year until they reach $0.35/kWh by 2040. Currently, power prices in Maine are $0.07/kWh.
- The University of Maine is leading the group developing the project, Maine Aqua Ventus. The floating turbines were planned to be operational in 2020. State regulators say they will revisit the project in the future.
Maine is already on track to meet renewable goals, and regulators say given falling power prices the contract with Aqua Ventus could be worth five times its market value.
The consortium's legal counsel told Bangor Daily News that the project may still move forward but would require some kind of subsidy. The group will work with Central Maine Power to develop a new arrangement, the lawyer said.
Clean energy advocates say the decision isn't a surprise, given Gov. Paul LePage's vocal opposition to renewable energy.
“This commission has once again decided to delay or overturn action that supports renewable energy in Maine,” Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine told the Press Herald. “They have repeatedly sought to move the goal posts on contracts for renewable energy.”
Maine Aqua Ventus has received almost $11 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project could receive $40 million in funding, but will need to meet certain milestones. The Press Herald notes the lack of a power contract could imperil the funding.
As designed, the New England Aqua Ventus I demonstration project would likely be the first full-scale floating wind project in North or South America. The project utilizes two 6 MW turbines on VolturnUS, a floating concrete semi-submersible hull designed by UMaine.
Each hull and turbine is held in position by three marine mooring lines anchored to the seabed. Generation from the project would move via subsea cable to the Maine power grid on shore. An interconnection cable will join the turbines, connecting to a 34.5 kV subsea power cable. The plan was for the turbines to produce emissions-free energy for a 20-year power purchase agreement.