| LITTLETON, N.H.
LITTLETON, N.H. Jan 24 Maine's utility
commission has approved a $120 million pilot project to erect
four floating windmills in its coastal ocean waters, where wind
speeds are stronger and more consistent than on land.
The project by Norway's Statoil, the company that
seeks to expand testing of a new technology to allow wind power
to be generated in deep oceanic waters, would provide enough
power for about 7,000 Maine homes.
The move by the state utilities commission is a first but
important step in a lengthy approval process not expected to
conclude until 2014. If all goes smoothly, electricity from the
windmills could be generated as soon as 2016, the company said.
"Whatever the outcome of the Statoil project and whatever
the future for high-wind technology in broader applications, I
have no doubt the pilot itself will bring substantial knowledge
and experience in offshore development to Maine," said Thomas
Welch, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Located 12 miles (19 kilometers) offshore, each of the
236-foot (72 meter) high towers would hold three 166-foot (51
meter) long blades, and would float in water about 500 feet (152
Maine's Republican Governor, Paul LePage, blasted the move,
saying it would raise the cost of electricity in the state.
"This vote will exacerbate our economic challenges, and it
compounds Maine's competitive disadvantages," LePage said in a
An undersea cable would transmit electricity from the
turbines to the coast of Maine. The company has tested a single
prototype of the floating windmill, known as Hywind, for three
years in Norway and considers it an engineering success.
Statoil has applied to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
for a lease over 22-square miles (57-square kilometers) of
federal waters in the Gulf of Maine near the town of Boothbay.
The area is suitable for the pilot program because of
favorable wind conditions and water depths as well as proximity
to electricity markets in the Northeast, which could be tapped
in the future if the project is a success.
Each of the three-megawatt windmills would sit atop a
vertical floating tube that would extend 260 feet (79 meters)
below the surface of the sea. The bottom of each tube would be
filled with ballast and anchored to the seafloor by three