June 18, 2013

LePage threatens veto of wide-ranging energy bill

The governor wants to support a UMaine offshore wind pilot project over that of a Norwegian company, but a sponsor says failure to pass the bill would undermine other energy initiatives as well.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

A scale model of the VolturnUS wind turbine was christened in May. The model will test the device and lead the way to larger and more powerful wind energy generators.

Gordon Chibroski, Staff Photographer

"It's a really bad position for the state of Maine," he said. "We've negotiated an agreement with a multinational firm that could invest millions of dollars here. Once you've set the rules of the game, and everyone agrees with them, you have to move forward."

Last month, the university launched its one-eight scale model into the Penobscot River, for testing off Castine and Monhegan Island. If the concrete and composite technology is proven, the next step is to build two six-megawatt turbines that could generate enough power for 6,000 homes.

Statoil, meanwhile, is planning four three-megawatt turbines off Boothbay Harbor. It's conducting tests this summer. It already has built and tested a full-scale, floating steel turbine off Norway.

Because the two projects are in different phases, it's hard for state government to compare the technologies and decide which is better, Williamson said.

Both projects, however, are competing for a new round of federal grant money, which could be crucial for each to move ahead. Each has to show the Department of Energy that its technology is affordable and will generate power at market rates in 2020.

Whether or not LePage chooses to veto the energy bill, his actions are sending a disturbing message to international investors, according to Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

"The reality is, Statoil is trying to invest here, and we shouldn't create a reason for them not to do that," he said.

He also said LePage is being contradictory when he criticizes Statoil's power contract but then seeks special favors for UMaine. The state's Ocean Energy Act recognized that power from small, pilot projects would be more expensive.

"When a term sheet is signed, it ought to be honored," he said.

But Woodcock said a term sheet isn't the same as a signed contract.

"Any business knows a deal isn't done until there's a final contract," he said.

Woodcock said a review of the two projects would help determine which could be developed at the lower prices. The added competition would improve such an important project, he said, pledging that the review process would be done as quickly as possible.

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:


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