December 3, 2013

Maine Voices: Offshore wind project will benefit Maine’s economy and the environment

The state is in a strong position to compete for a pilot project grant from U.S. Department of Energy.

By state Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport

FREEPORT — What if, right now in Maine, a project proposed making good use of two of our state’s greatest assets: Maine’s natural resources and the University of Maine’s research and engineering labs?

about the author

State Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, serves on the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

What if it partnered the University of Maine with Maine-created technologies and internationally competitive Maine companies? If it committed to using Maine workers and businesses in both its production and construction?

And finally, imagine that it presented a clean, renewable energy technology that would mitigate extreme weather and ultimately lower energy costs for the people and businesses of Maine.

Right now, that project exists. It is Maine Aqua Ventus I Offshore Wind – a stellar example of the homegrown renewable energy source that our state policies have encouraged over the past decade.

As a member of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, I know this project has great merit and the chance for enormous success. I know it as a Maine resident and ratepayer and as a mother who wants a future Maine where her children can grow up to have good-paying jobs and clean air.

What I can’t figure out is why we are not all talking about it more.

Maine Aqua Ventus is a Maine-owned company whose three general partners consist of Cianbro Corp., Emera Inc. and the UMaine spinoff, Maine Prime Technologies. Their proposal is for a 12-megawatt floating deepwater offshore wind pilot project in the Gulf of Maine. After being constructed and assembled at Maine ports, it will connect to the electricity grid via a newly built transmission line, providing electricity to as many as 13,000 homes.

Wherever we live in Maine, most of us can agree on at least a few goals: helping our higher education system produce great minds, creating skilled and good-paying jobs, lowering our energy costs and managing the damage of climate change. Maine Aqua Ventus I addresses these challenges.

By successfully harnessing the powerful wind resources of the Gulf of Maine, it ensures that the enormous economic opportunity of this new industry is directed to Maine businesses employing Maine workers. With this project, Maine will be the leader of an important new offshore wind industry. Perhaps more importantly, though, Maine can be positioned to become the production hub for a technology made here and exported for projects around the world.

In creating this technology, UMaine students gave Maine the opportunity to leverage enormous federal dollars for economic and environmental success that ultimately will help the university system continue to grow, attract and retain the vibrant youthful minds of Maine’s future economy.

And finally, through utilizing the power of a natural resource for high-capacity energy production, Maine will be able to more aggressively combat issues such as ocean warming, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and costly fossil fuel use. Success here will position us for an economically competitive and environmentally healthy future.

In the next month, the Maine Public Utilities Commission is expected to take action on a power-purchase agreement needed for the project. With this agreement, Maine Aqua Ventus would be allowed to sell power to the grid.

And with that step completed, Maine Aqua Ventus would be able to compete with five other states (New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, Ohio and Oregon) to be one of two grantee projects chosen for a U.S. Department of Energy pilot offshore wind project.

Maine Aqua Ventus is a highly competitive contender for achieving the grant program’s goal for producing clean, offshore wind at as little as 10 cents per kilowatt-hour by the mid-2030s.

These are exciting times for innovation in Maine. Together, our academic minds and businesses can execute a successful groundbreaking project. Our state has the ability to create an economy that is improved by new jobs, new technology and clean, lower-cost energy.

Let’s all help this project move forward by talking about its tremendous merits and by letting the Department of Energy hear this message – Maine is ready, willing and able to embrace the new offshore wind technology that the University of Maine has placed in our hands.

— Special to the Press Herald

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