PROPOSED MAINE FLOATING WIND FARM PROJECT ON SCHEDULE
BY STAS MARGARONIS, RBTUS
Construction of two floating wind turbines, each generating 6MW (megawatts) of electricity, is scheduled to begin in 2017 for deployment off the coast of Maine.
Professor Habib Dagher, executive director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and principal investigator for the DeepCwind Consortium, told RBTUS that the terms for a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Maine Public Utilities Commission are in place so that the wind power from the demonstration project will be purchased by Central Maine Power.
12 megawatts can provide power for 6,000 homes, he said.
Dagher said power generated by the Aqua Ventus wind turbine demonstration project is scheduled to “send the first electron to the grid in 2018.”
In November, the demonstration project received a $3.7 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The Maine project is building a concrete hull in the United States rather than sourcing a steel hull for its floating wind turbines from abroad. Dagher says the concrete hull will reduce the construction cost of the floating wind turbines by almost half of what similar sized turbines would cost constructed at a Korean shipyard and delivered to the United States. In addition, the deployment of floating wind turbines rather than wind turbines with fixed foundations in the sea bed, such as those already deployed in Northern Europe, will provide further cost advantages.
The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and its partners launched the first U.S. floating wind turbine in May, 2013. Data collected from the single VolturnUS 1:8 scale floating wind turbine supported the viability of the floating concrete-composite hull. The prototype — the first floating concrete-composite wind turbine deployed in the world — remained off the coast of Castine, Maine for 18 months.
Over 50 onboard sensors measured wave, wind and current motions and stresses on the floating platform. The 1:8 scale floating unit weathered 37 storms and endured relative wave heights equivalent to 70 feet. Data collected was used to further optimize the full-scale 6MW concrete-composite hull design.
However, economies of scale for delivering power at utility rates competitive with oil and gas will require a wind farm much larger than the 12MW demonstration project, Dagher said.
The demonstration project has “collected the necessary environmental data to move ahead,” Dagher said.
The project has avoided the lengthy federal approval process by locating the proposed wind turbines within Maine’s coastal waters, rather then further out to sea where the project would have fallen under federal jurisdiction.
Dagher explained: “We continue to make significant progress by demonstrating the technical advantages and cost reductions of the VolturnUS floating concrete hull ….wind technology. Our team is busy putting the final touches on the design of the 6MW hull for the two-turbine, 12MW demonstration project. The additional (DOE) funding will help us complete all aspects of the project planning, negotiate supply contracts with industrial partners and approach financial close for the project.”
New England/Maine Aqua Ventus is part of the DOE’s offshore wind portfolio under the Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects, along with projects from Virginia, New Jersey, Oregon and Ohio.
Decisions on which of the five projects advance and receive an additional $40 million will be made by DOE by May 31, 2016.