Fishing community expresses concerns about offshore wind turbine proposal

Jeffrey Evangelos
Jeffrey Evangelos
Posted Nov. 12, 2013, at 9:22 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 13, 2013, at 6:12 p.m.

FRIENDSHIP, Maine — A proposed wind turbine farm off Monhegan Island was met with skepticism and outright opposition during a presentation Tuesday night in this fishing village.

The presentation was made by representatives of the University of Maine to about 30 people at the Friendship town office.

The project would necessitate a cable run from two 6-megawatt turbines located 2.5 miles south of Monhegan and 10 miles from the mainland. An exact location where the cable would run to the mainland has not been decided but the top candidates are Bristol, Friendship and Port Clyde.

The location of the cable, however, was not the main point of discussion by those in attendance at the meeting.

The two turbine pilot wind farm would be within the boundaries of the UMaine test site, which is a 2.1-mile-by-1.1-mile area south of Monhegan.

“This would devastate fishing in that area if you do that,” said fisherman Kevin Benner.

Fishing has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, such that the number of people fishing offshore in that area has increased from about six to about 40.

Jake Ward, vice president of innovation at the university, said the impact on the fisheries is part of the discussion of the offshore wind project.

State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, was sharply critical of the way the wind project has been developed.

Norwegian company Statoil announced in October that it was pulling the plug on its $120 million offshore wind pilot project in Maine, citing uncertainty about state regulations.

Evangelos said he thinks the ethics surrounding the factors that led to Statoil’s withdrawal “stink.”

“I think the whole thing stinks,” the independent representative said.

The legislator also said he would not support any project that would put the lobster industry at risk. The fishing industry is a $1 billion industry that receives no federal subsidies while the wind power project is one that will be dependent on federal subsidies, Evangelos said.

Ward said the university did nothing to dissolve the proposed Statoil contract. He also said that Evangelos was entitled to his opinion.

The university officer said the goal of the wind project is to make it a source of cost-effective energy.

Maine Aqua Ventus I GP LLC is a new, special purpose company founded to commercialize the University of Maine’s floating offshore wind technology.

In late August, UMaine submitted a bid with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to send long-term renewable energy produced by UMaine’s floating wind turbines to the state. The PUC ruled in early October that the bid document, which was at first confidential, should be at least partially public because of the university’s role in it and the fact that much of the information already had been made public.

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