October 15, 2013

Statoil leaving Maine for more certain climate

The company, which planned to build a $120 million wind farm, blames its decision on a LePage initiative to reopen bids for offshore wind projects.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Statoil had planned to erect four floating wind turbines – similar to these producing power in the North Sea – off Boothbay Harbor.

Trude Refsahl/Statoil

It said it will continue to pursue a contract with the PUC and grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We are regional institutions committed to developing a Gulf of Maine resource for the benefit of the region,” Maine Aqua Ventus said. “We are here to stay and look forward to competing against other projects nationally and helping to realize Maine’s full offshore wind development opportunity.”

King, Pingree DISAPPOINTED

Environmental groups that supported Statoil’s effort and have fought to make the Maine Aqua Ventus proposal public expressed frustration Tuesday.

“It is extremely disappointing that the LePage administration and the Legislature moved the goal posts as part of a last-minute exercise in legislative sausage making,” said Sean Mahoney, executive vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation-Maine. “A transparent and consistent regulatory process is what the people and the businesses of Maine not only want but deserve. In this case, the administration and the Legislature delivered just the opposite.”

Beth Nagusky, Maine director for Environment Northeast, said she hopes that Statoil’s departure won’t end Maine’s best hopes of developing a new, clean source of renewable energy.

“We are sad but not totally surprised by Statoil’s decision,” she said. “The governor and state Legislature did not exactly roll out the red carpet to them over the past few months.”

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine expressed disappointment at the news.

“I strongly believe that the floating offshore wind industry, including Statoil’s proposal, presents Maine with a once-in-a-hundred-year opportunity to become a global leader in an emerging energy field that would not only put Mainers to work, but also grow our state’s economy for years to come,” he said in a prepared statement.

He said the state should continue to seize the opportunity to harvest wind energy.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, had a similar reaction.

“It’s extremely disappointing to hear that Statoil is pulling the plug on what would have been a multimillion-dollar investment in our state,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that this major international company was made to feel unwelcome in Maine and I’m hopeful that this won’t be a major setback in the future development of a new offshore wind industry in our state.”

Pingree also noted that the University of Maine has a strong record on clean energy technologies, and said Maine Aqua Ventus could help establish Maine as a leader in renewable energy.

TURNING TO SCOTLAND, ELSEWHERE

Statoil is a large oil and gas producer that’s using its experience in the North Sea to develop renewable energy projects around the world. It launched the world’s first floating turbine three years ago, off Norway.

Its Hywind Maine was being designed to put four 3-megawatt wind turbines on floating spar-buoy structures that would be tethered to the seabed in 460 feet of water off Boothbay Harbor. They were to be assembled on shore and towed to the site. Power was expected to flow into the grid, via undersea cable, by 2016.

Last month, Statoil said it would install five, six-megawatt floating turbines off northeast Scotland. In a news release, the company said it was “encouraged by a positive and constructive dialogue with Scottish authorities.”

Regarding Maine, Aanestad said Statoil is grateful to the broad range of businesses, officials and lawmakers who supported the company’s efforts. He said Statoil will explore opportunities for offshore wind power elsewhere in the United States.

Asked whether the company might return to Maine, if the political dynamics change, Aanestad said, “We would not rule anything out.”

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:tturkel@pressherald.com
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