AUGUSTA, Maine — Having considered seven sites along Maine’s coast for offshore wind demonstration projects, state officials on Tuesday narrowed the list to four possible locations where researchers might explore the potential for wind power facilities.
The University of Maine, which earlier this month received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for wind energy research, and commercial developers will be able to test deep-water wind turbines in each site that is eventually selected, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Maine Department of Conservation.
The final selection on which sites will be available for testing won’t be made until mid-December.
The locations still being considered by the state include sites off Boon Island in York County, Damariscove and Monhegan islands in Lincoln County, and Cutler in Washington County. The total area in the four sites equals about 7 square miles of ocean bottom, Robert Marvinney, state geologist, indicated in the release.
In June, the Legislature mandated that the Department of Conservation and the State Planning Office collaborate to identify between one and five sites along the coast for use as offshore wind test sites. Officials have said that wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine, where wind speeds are higher and more consistent than they are on land, feasibly could generate several hundred megawatts of electricity. A gigawatt, or 1,000 megawatts, is approximately the peak power output of a nuclear power plant.
According to Marvinney, the public can submit comments on the four proposed sites until Nov. 30.
“We’re far from done,” Marvinney said in the release. “This process is transparent, and I urge anyone who wants to submit an opinion or technical data to write to the Department of Conservation.”
Other sites that were mentioned earlier this year as possibilities but did not make the cut included areas near Matinicus Island, Isle Au Haut and Jonesport. State officials and others held a series of public meetings along the coast over the past two months to gather feedback on all the sites. Fishermen, boaters, wildlife advocates and conservationists attended the meetings to weigh in on the proposed sites.
Stephanie Clement, conservation director for the group Friends of Acadia, said Tuesday that the organization is happy the site off Isle Au Haut is no longer being considered. She said the southern shore of Isle Au Haut, which is part of Acadia National Park, should be exposed to as little development as possible so that the pub-lic can continue to enjoy the island’s wild and remote qualities.
Clement said FOA is not opposed to offshore wind power development at other locations in Maine.
“We applaud the state for trying to become a leader in offshore wind technology,” Clement said. “I’m very pleased to hear Isle Au Haut was removed from the list [of sites] for consideration.”
At each site that gets eventual final approval, a commercial developer will be able to test up to two deep-water turbines and could host demonstrations of wave-energy technology, according to DOC. In addition to studying what kind of equipment works best, researchers also will monitor what kind of effect, if any, the test equipment has on the surrounding environment.
The University of Maine, which leads a consortium of organizations that received the $8 million federal grant, is likely to receive another $5 million for offshore wind power research in a federal energy and water appropriations bill that is expected to be signed into law by President Obama. Which proposed offshore testing site might be used by UMaine and its partners has not been determined.
Last month, Norwegian energy firm StatoilHydro signed an agreement with UMaine to test deep water turbine equipment in the Gulf of Maine.
Additional information about the state site selection process can be found online at the Department of Conservation official Web site, www.maine.gov/doc.