The partnership developing an innovative wind energy project off the Maine coast has created an online supply chain portal and will conduct a live, virtual event on Nov. 18 to line up suppliers and service providers to help build what’s expected to be the nation’s first demonstration of commercial scale, offshore floating wind technology.

The portal’s creation by New England Aqua Ventus LLC is an indication that, after a dozen years, a full-size version of technology designed and tested at the University of Maine will finally get in the water. Developers now plan to begin construction in 2022 and be in service in 2023.

Developers say the project is expected to generate more than $125 million in total economic activity and create hundreds of Maine-based jobs during the construction period.

The University of Maine’s 9,000-pound prototype floating wind turbine off the coast of Castine in 2013. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The project received a major boost in August when Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., and RWE Renewables, the world’s second-largest offshore wind company,  joined the public-private partnership and committed to investing $100 million. That investment comes on top of $47 million in grants already awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“(Aqua Ventus) is totally committed to doing everything we can to use Maine content and services in the development, construction and operation of the project,” said Diamond Offshore CEO Chris Wissemann. “We urge anyone who might have a service or material that could contribute to the demonstration project to visit our website’s supply chain portal and also participate in the upcoming supply chain Zoom event.”

Interested parties can register for the event and learn more about opportunities to provide goods and services at newenglandaquaventus.com.

Registrants will receive an invitation to the virtual event, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 18. Parties also can request an invitation by emailing Aqua Ventus and providing full contact information and a description of the products or services offered, at [email protected]

The search for contractors, material suppliers, consultants and other participants is coming as billions of dollars worth of offshore wind power investment is ramping up along the East Coast, from the Carolinas to New England.

But those proposals are for turbines erected on the seabed in shallow water, using conventional technology. Aqua Ventus is competing with companies testing and installing turbines on floating platforms in deep water, where winds are more consistent and turbine blades are out of sight from the mainland. It’s betting that the UMaine-developed technology, which uses concrete instead of steel, will be less expensive, last longer and can be fabricated in Maine.

A single, semisubmersible floating concrete hull will be anchored in state waters, two miles south of Monhegan Island and 14 miles from the mainland. The goals are to further evaluate the floating technology, monitor environmental factors and develop best practices for offshore wind to coexist with traditional marine activities in the Gulf of Maine. 

The platform will support a single turbine on a tower reaching 395 feet above the ocean. The  blades will have a diameter of 570 feet. The turbine will have a generating capacity of between 10 and 12 megawatts. It will send power to the mainland via a grid connection to Central Maine Power’s distribution network.

Several Maine-based companies already have been involved in the floating offshore wind demonstration project. They include The Cianbro Companies, Stantec and SGC Engineering. Cianbro, for instance, built and launched a one-eighth scale demonstration platform off Castine that helped provide real-world data to refine the UMaine design.

“Cianbro has been a founding member of the Aqua Ventus team for over 10 years and we remain deeply supportive and committed to the development of offshore wind in Maine,” said Pete Vigue, chair of The Cianbro Companies. “We look forward to working with the (Aqua Ventus) team and all related stakeholders to complete the initial demonstration unit.”

Dave Wilby, a renewable energy consultant working with the Aqua Ventus team, said that even though the project is relatively small, it will require a wide range of businesses to supply and provide everything from construction materials to environmental consulting services. It’s a chance, he said, for Maine companies to gain experience.

“There is an opportunity for companies in Maine to get in on the ground floor of what we think will be a growing business, hopefully in this part of the world, but certainly in North America. And first movers tend to get the lion’s share of opportunity down the road,” Wilby said.

And while the floating platform and its components can be fabricated in Maine, the actual turbine and blades will be manufactured elsewhere. Wilby said those suppliers haven’t been selected yet.

It’s too soon to say exactly where in the midcoast the connecting cable will come onshore. Also yet to be announced is where on the coast the rotor, tower and other parts will be assembled and floated to the project site.

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