The University of Maine will collaborate with New England Aqua Ventus, LLC (NEAV), a joint venture between Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation, and RWE Renewables, the second largest company in offshore wind globally, to develop UMaine’s floating offshore wind technology demonstration project off the coast of Maine.
As the developer, NEAV will own and manage all aspects of permitting, construction and assembly, deployment and ongoing operations for the project. UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center will continue with design and engineering, research and development, and post-construction monitoring.
The project will consist of a single semisubmersible concrete floating platform that will support a commercial 11 megawatt wind turbine and will be deployed in a state-designated area 2 miles south of Monhegan Island and 14 miles from the Maine coast. The purpose of the demonstration project is to further evaluate the floating technology, monitor environmental factors and develop best practices for offshore wind to coexist with traditional marine activities. It will supply clean, renewable electricity to the Maine grid.
Construction, following all permitting, is expected to be completed in 2023.
An immediate priority for the new development team is to engage with the fishing industry, other maritime users, coastal communities and interested parties on how to ensure this new renewable energy source can optimally provide economic growth to Maine and work with maritime industries.
Since 2008, the University of Maine has researched floating offshore wind technology as a solution to Maine’s overdependence on imported fossil fuels. After winning funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the university worked with Maine-based construction firm Cianbro to build and deploy the first grid-connected offshore wind turbine in the U.S. in 2013, a one-eighth scale prototype of its VolturnUS floating hull technology. The success of the project led to additional DOE funding to further advance the VolturnUS technology, which has been issued 43 patents to date. The university and Cianbro sought to partner with a world-class offshore wind developer to further demonstrate this technology on a commercial scale. UMaine will continue to own its VolturnUS floating hull intellectual property and license it to NEAV for this project.
“Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables bring global expertise in offshore wind project development and construction, and we look forward to working with them to demonstrate UMaine’s floating hull technology in Maine waters,” says Habib Dagher, executive director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, where the VolturnUS hull technology was invented. “Our design is ideally suited for deepwater deployment anywhere and has the potential to play a significant role in global efforts to decrease dependence on fossil fuels.”
Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables, with years of collective offshore energy experience and success, will invest $100 million to build the project and help demonstrate the technology at full scale. Combined, the two new partners are responsible for nearly a quarter of the world’s offshore wind capacity.
Under the Mills administration and with a long history of bipartisan support, Maine has moved boldly ahead on renewable energy and offshore wind development, including enacting legislation authorizing approval by the Maine Public Utilities Commission of the power purchase contract for Aqua Ventus, and initiating a study of the port at Searsport as a potential site to support and develop offshore wind. The governor also accepted the invitation for Maine to join the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, along with New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which is charged with facilitating coordination related to renewable energy activities in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine.
“This is a significant milestone for the University of Maine, the offshore wind research team and the state of Maine,” says UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “As Maine’s research university, UMaine is continually advancing its broad land grant, sea and space grant mission. The path from fundamental research to economic realization is complex, and success takes incredible innovation, persistence and strategic partnerships. Many faculty, staff and students have participated in the development of this technology, and will continue to support the energy and marine economy as this project transitions to the private sector. This collaboration exemplifies our role and commitment to creating and supporting the future of Maine.”
NEAV will continue to involve Maine companies in permitting, construction and assembly, deployment, and ongoing operations and maintenance of the project. In addition, NEAV has committed to working with the University of Maine on research, development and design to take the technology elsewhere in the U.S. and the world. The concrete hulls are designed to be built in communities adjacent to potential projects, generating local construction jobs and other benefits during the building and assembly phase.
The project is projected to produce over $150 million in total economic output and create hundreds of Maine-based jobs during the construction period.
The developers also will work with the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy to attract K–12 students to science, engineering and business programs, prepare college students and help to create a skilled workforce in Maine with the technical skills necessary to support offshore wind development and operation.
“We are pleased to partner with the university to bring its ideas for floating offshore wind to fruition,” says Chris Wissemann of Diamond Offshore Wind. “This project south of Monhegan is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a new technology that can be built in Maine, create jobs in Maine, and demonstrate how fishing and offshore wind can coexist. Together with RWE, our engineers conducted an extensive due-diligence review of UMaine’s VolturnUS floating wind technology, and believe it is a world leader in floating wind that reduces costs and creates local jobs. We are really focused on creating economic opportunities for Maine as this new carbon-free economy emerges.”
“We see great potential for floating wind farms worldwide, especially in countries like the U.S., with deeper coastal waters,” says Sven Utermöhlen, chief operating officer, Wind Offshore Global of RWE Renewables. “This innovative project combines the University of Maine’s knowledge with the state’s maritime heritage, allowing RWE Renewables to gain the experience that can help us provide future opportunities to grow local economies and produce clean, renewable power.”