ORONO, Maine — Officials behind the University of Maine’s offshore floating wind turbine plans will meet with residents of three coastal towns in the coming weeks to outline early plans for a power transmission line that might pass through one of their communities in the future.
Meetings will be held Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Friendship Town Office; Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Bristol Consolidated School; and Monday, Nov. 25, at the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde. Each meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m.
Representatives from UMaine will present the possible locations of where the line could come ashore, though the exact plan hasn’t been pinpointed and research is continuing, according to Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development.
“We have several routes that are evolving, and we’ll be showing them at those meetings,” Ward said.
He explained that this series of meetings is part of a continuing public outreach effort regarding the project, similar to meetings the university held with fishermen while trying to identify possible places to put larger-scale offshore floating wind farms in the future.
The line from the two 6-megawatt turbines, which will be placed off Monhegan Island, will be submerged in the Gulf of Maine until it reaches shore, where it then will be connected to a Central Maine Power substation near New Harbor.
“This is not a huge ordeal,” Ward said. “It’s a fairly small transmission line, not too different from what you’d see on a utility pole.”
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 had already been made public.
Officials behind the project are working with the PUC to redact some information from that document that might put UMaine at a “competitive disadvantage,” such as projected energy prices. Details that might give other projects an advantage in a U.S. Department of Energy grant competition also may be redacted, according to Ward and Jeffrey Thaler, an attorney representing the university on the project.
That document could be ready for public eyes at some point later this week, Thaler said in an interview Monday. It’s likely that most of the information contained in the document will have already been released by the university or reported in media. Ward said he didn’t imagine there would be any major revelations in the proposal.
A one-eighth scale turbine is floating off the shore of Castine, the turbine system in preparation for the project.
The Department of Energy awarded $4 million to the Advanced Structures and Composites Center for the engineering, design and permitting phase of its offshore floating turbine project — one of seven projects in the nation selected to receive the funding.
That initial boost could lead to a much larger award from the Energy Department, as the offshore wind energy team will move on to compete for one of three awards of up to $47 million, over four years, to help the university move forward with Aqua Ventus I. UMaine expects to learn next spring or summer whether it has received more funding.
By 2020, the plan is to have a larger-scale commercial wind farm with 80 turbines in a 4- by 8-mile space 20 miles offshore, over the horizon and neither visible nor audible from shore. By 2030, the goal is to have a full-scale wind farm bringing 5 gigawatts of energy to shore, according to the university.