September 24, 2013

Legislators want veil lifted on UMaine wind plan

They and others say a lack of information makes it impossible to compare the project to Statoil's proposal.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: UMaine wind proposal

Should the PUC make public the wind proposal from the University of Maine and a team of investors?



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A team from the University of Maine at Orono tests a turbine outside their laboratory as they prepare to place the floating turbine in the ocean off the coast of Castine in May.

Photo courtesy of Habib Dagher / University of Maine

On Sunday, The Associated Press reported that Patrick Woodcock, LePage’s energy director, had earlier in the year worked behind the scenes in an effort to scuttle Statoil’s project.

Asked about the report on Monday, Cleveland said he wasn’t surprised.

“I knew from the beginning that the governor was trying to kill the Statoil proposal,” he said.

The lack of information means there is no way to compare UMaine's plan with Hywind Maine. That makes it impossible to get a sense of the overall economic potential of a venture meant to advance Maine's standing as a center of research and construction in deep-water ocean energy.

Two environmental groups, Environment Northeast and the Conservation Law Foundation, sent letters last week urging the PUC to make the UMaine plan public now and to decide its merits by December 31.

“The longer it takes the commission to reach its decision, the greater the risk of disrupting an important economic opportunity for Maine’s clean energy future and risking its business reputation,” wrote Beth Nagusky, Environment Northeast’s Maine director, and Sean Mahoney, vice president for the Conservation Law Foundation.

The PUC now is accepting comments on this request as part of its formal review of the UMaine proposal. Comments are due on Tuesday, and Maine Aqua Ventus must reply by Oct. 1.

In a related action, Mahoney’s group filed a freedom-of-access request with the university and the PUC, in an effort to see the documents being withheld.

Similar legal requests for documents also were sent to the university and PUC on Monday by the Portland Press Herald.

Last Friday, the PUC responded to the groups and to the newspaper, denying the request. It said the records are confidential and protected from public view under a protective order.

Statoil also is asking the agency to see the Maine Aqua Ventus proposal. In a letter dated Sept. 10, the company argued that, as the only developer with an approved contract for offshore wind with the PUC, Statoil should be able to see the proposal, subject to appropriate confidentiality rules.

Statoil launched the world's first full-scale floating turbine in 2009 in the North Sea. It was looking to Maine to expand and refine the technology.

The PUC said that the three-member commission will deliberate on the UMaine application and make a decision by Dec. 31. No specific date has been set for deliberations.

Both projects also are in competition with offshore wind proposals nationally for $50 million in federal energy funds. That decision is expected this winter.

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


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Today's poll: UMaine wind proposal

Should the PUC make public the wind proposal from the University of Maine and a team of investors?



View Results


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