The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Thursday that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will begin accepting public comments Friday for a project that could place enormous floating wind turbines in federal waters about 12 nautical miles off the Maine coast.
The first element of the two-part public comment process will determine whether firms other than Statoil North America, which last year filed an application for the project, have interest in constructing wind turbines in the same waters, Theresa Eisenman of the bureau said Thursday. If other potential wind farm developers emerge, it will affect whether the bureau treats the lease as competitive or noncompetitive. The deadline to submit comments related to competitive aspects of the lease application is Oct. 9.
A second element of the comment gathering relates to potential environmental impacts of the proposal. Those comments will be accepted through Nov. 8.
Whether competitors emerge will determine how the ocean energy bureau progresses with environmental assessment, Eisenman said.
Statoil North America is a subsidiary of a major European energy company whose primary focus is petroleum products. It filed an application for a commercial wind energy lease in October 2011.
The application seeks a commercial wind lease for approximately 22 square miles. The area may be reduced based on the environmental impact analysis and other factors, according to a press release from the bureau.
The project aims to have a 12-megawatt production capacity through four wind turbine generators. The Statoil proposal also responds to a request for proposals issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Statoil North America, which calls its project “ Hywind Maine,” also seeks permission to connect to the ISO New England power grid and has submitted a proposal to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
“This is the first time that this innovative floating technology is being considered for development in deeper waters offshore our coasts,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes said in the release.
Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 2nd District, and Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican, both praised the move.
“The innovative floating wind turbine technology will open up deeper waters off our coasts, helping Maine to create jobs and lead the nation in clean energy production,” Michaud said in a release.
“Maine is uniquely positioned to harness offshore wind energy, and the public’s input in successfully developing this industry is absolutely critical,” Snowe said in a release. “I am encouraged that the Department of the Interior is progressing to a public comment stage, allowing our fishermen and other stakeholders the opportunity to voice their opinions on how to best ensure that the development of offshore wind is undertaken in concert with the individuals who understand these waters better than anyone else.”
On Aug. 3, Gov. Paul LePage characterized wind power as a “boutique energy source.” However, in June, Ken Fletcher, director of LePage’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, told the Bangor Daily News that he and the LePage administration support the Hywind project in concept. Fletcher said the project is essentially about research and development and should be explored along with other solutions to Maine’s overdependence on foreign oil.
The public comment period “to solicit submissions of indications of competitive interest and additional information on potential environmental consequences and other uses of the proposed lease area” opens Friday.
To comment, go to the comments section of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website.
Written comments can be mailed to Program Manager, Office of Renewable Energy (HM 1328), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 381 Elden St., Herndon, VA 20170-4817.
A map of the area proposed and copy of the application is available at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.