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UMaine to get crack at PPA

UMaine to get crack at PPA image

A University of Maine-led consortium is preparing to bid for a power purchase agreement for a 12MW offshore wind project after lawmakers amended and passed a bill in the state legislature, UMaine spokesperson Elizabeth Viselli told reNews.

“The university is very proud and very excited,” said Viselli.

“It shows that the state’s investment in research and development has resulted in a technology that the state administration and legislature is comfortable can compete with an international oil company’s technology.”

Governor Paul LePage demanded the changes in exchange for his support of an omnibus energy bill he had earlier vetoed. LePage changed his stance on that legislation after lawmakers amended a separate bill that supports UMaine’s 12MW Aqua Ventus 1 offshore wind project.

The amended LD 1472 calls for the Maine Public Utilities Commission to reopen bidding for offshore wind pilot projects. The PUC in January approved a 20-year power purchase agreement with Statoil North America for the 12MW Hywind Maine scheme that will pay $270/MWh. The Norwegian energy company’s $120m pilot includes the installation of four 3MW turbines about 10 miles off the mainland on next-generation spar foundations.

The governor insisted the UMaine scheme should have equal footing since Maine ratepayers were going to end up paying higher electricity rates.

“There are many things we can disagree on, but we should all agree that our flagship university deserves the opportunity to compete on a level playing field,” said LePage. “For the state, it is simply the right thing to do.”

The amended bill directs the PUC to issue a second solicitation for deep-water offshore wind projects. The first request for proposals was open only to for-profit companies. UMaine has until 1 September to submit a proposal and the PUC would have until the end of the year to make a decision.

The criteria include an acceptable energy price and economic development requirements such as local content, capital expenditures and job creation.

The legislation also allows the AquaVentus 1 proponents to compete at the national level for federal Department of Energy funding.

The DeepCWind consortium this month deployed and connected the VolturnUS 1:8 floating turbine prototype off the coast of Maine, as reported in reNews. The full-size two-turbine AquaVentus 1 project is slated for deployment in 2016.

The omnibus energy bill that also passed into law Wednesday is aimed at ending Maine’s heavy dependence on heating oil. It is designed to expand natural gas infrastructure, increase funding for energy efficiency and lower businesses’ electricity costs.

The governor tried unsuccessfully to include a roll-back of Maine’s ambitious wind power goals.

Test run: VolturnUS 1:8 scale floating turbine prototype (Maine Maritime Academy)

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