PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A scaled-down offshore wind turbine has withstood winter storms that included the equivalent of waves exceeding 70 feet, providing confidence that a full-scale version can handle the harshest weather that the North Atlantic can throw at it, the head of the University of Maine's advanced composites center said Thursday.
The 65-foot-tall turbine deployed last summer off Castine performed as engineers expected even as the waves exceeded the platform's design limits in November and December, giving them confidence as they prepare to build larger platforms and taller turbines, Habib Dagher said after addressing the Environmental and Energy Technology Council.
"We feel very confident now that we have something we can build that will survive a 100-year storm in the state of Maine. So am I worried about the 'perfect storm' coming in and wiping out offshore wind farms? No, I'm not. I think we're in good shape," he said.
The university and its partners have formed a joint venture called Maine Aqua Ventus to build two larger units to be deployed nearly 15 miles off shore near Monhegan Island. Maine Aqua Ventus officials have estimated that the project could create 340 full- and part-time jobs during the three years of planning and construction.
The Public Utilities Commission gave initial approval to the project Tuesday.
The project is expected to generate enough power for as many as 7,000 Maine homes and at 23 cents per kilowatt hour it will cost customers roughly $9 more a year on their utility bills. If successful, officials believe a large wind farm 20 miles offshore could generate up to 500 megawatts of electricity and cut electricity costs by at least half.
But first, the one-eighth scale model had to be deployed to prove the technology works.