Interior advances floating turbine proposal, will review Va. research lease

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012

The Interior Department this week advanced a Norwegian company’s proposal to install the nation’s first floating wind turbines off the coast of Maine and said it would also review the state of Virginia’s plan to gauge wind resources off its shore.

The two announcements signaled continued momentum in the Obama administration’s plan to expedite offshore wind development from Georgia to Maine.

The agency late last month said it will hold the nation’s first competitive lease sales for offshore wind in 2013 off the coasts of Virginia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island (E&ENews PM, Nov. 30).

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management yesterday announced that there is no competitive interest in developing a 22-square-mile area in the Gulf of Maine off Boothbay Harbor, where Statoil North America has proposed building a 12-megawatt floating wind farm.

The company in its proposal to BOEM in fall 2011 said it hopes to build on its Hywind floating turbine project, which it deployed off the southwest coast of Norway in 2010. This week’s finding clears the way for the company to submit a plan to build four turbines in about 500 feet of water.

The project was among seven announced last week that will receive $4 million each under a Department of Energy initiative that aims to have advanced offshore wind turbines in the water by 2017 (E&ENews PM, Dec. 12).

“This exciting project offshore Maine is pioneering the development and testing of floating wind power technology capable of deployment in deep water,” BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said.

Maine is considered to have good offshore wind, but federal waters there are too deep to moor turbines. The same is true in the Pacific Ocean.

The floating turbine used in Statoil’s Norway demonstration includes a steel cylinder filled with water and rocks and extends more than 300 feet beneath the water, according to the company’s website.

BOEM said it received nearly a dozen comments on the Statoil proposal, most of which discuss potential impacts on viewsheds, commercial and recreational fishing, birds and marine mammals.

And in Virginia, BOEM today said it has received an unsolicited request for a research lease from the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to gauge resources in the state’s 112,800-acre wind energy area.

The state wants to install two meteorological and ocean monitoring platforms to gather data on wind speeds, water levels, waves, and bird and bat activities.

BOEM said it will be publishing a notice in the Federal Register in the coming days to see whether other agencies are interested in researching wind conditions in the area. It will also accept public comments for the next 30 days.