Ten years ago, Maine’s Task Force on Wind Energy set ambitious goals for wind development in the State, including a 2015 target of 1,000 MW and a 2020 target of 3,000 MW (including 300 MW offshore) of installed capacity. Today, Maine has less than 1,000 MW of installed capacity, and has yet to develop any offshore wind projects. The new year has brought only bad tidings for the future of wind energy development in Maine, as the Maine PUC reconsiders an offshore pilot, Governor LePage seeks to limit new development, and Maine wind failed to succeed in the Massachusetts clean energy RFP. Below is a recap of the latest wind power developments this year.
PUC Reconsiders Aqua Ventus Offshore Wind Pilot Project
On January 24, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC or Commission) issued an Order requesting comments on whether it should reconsider its approval of a term sheet for the Maine Aqua Ventus (MAV) offshore wind project.
The MAV project is a proposed 12 MW floating offshore wind pilot project, to be sited near Monhegan Island, approximately 12 miles off the coast of Maine. In 2014, the PUC approved a term sheet that included a twenty-year term price of $0.23 per kilowatt hour during the first year and increasing by 2.25% in each subsequent year. Three years after the initial approval, MAV and Central Maine Power (CMP) submitted a contract for PUC approval last December.
Instead of approving the contract, the PUC is seeking comments on whether any developments since the 2014 approval warrant reconsideration of the MAV project, including: (1) a decline in energy prices, (2) technological advances in offshore wind technology, (3) Maine’s renewable energy goals, (4) the economic benefits of the project, and (5) various project-specific circumstances that may have changed since the original approval.
The deadline to file comments is February 14, 2018.
Governor’s Wind Permit Moratorium and Wind Energy Advisory Commission
On January 25, 2018 Governor LePage issued an Executive Order declaring a moratorium on new wind energy permits in scenic areas of the State until such time as a newly established Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission has the opportunity to review the impact of wind energy development on tourism in Maine.
The Governor will select the members of the Advisory Commission and has instructed that its meetings and documents will not be subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.
The Conservation Law Foundation has filed suit against the Governor in State Superior Court alleging that the moratorium on new wind energy permits is void for violating the separation of powers under the Maine Constitution.
Governor LePage has also introduced new legislation (LD 1810) to amend Maine’s Expedited Wind Permitting law. The Governor’s bill proposes to greatly reduce the area of the State subject to the expedited wind permitting process by limiting it to certain remote locations in northern Maine’s Aroostook County.
Massachusetts Passes on Maine Wind in Clean Energy RFP
On January 25, Massachusetts electric distribution companies and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources completed their review of proposals in the Section 83D Clean Energy RFP. Several proposals in the state-sponsored RFP included Maine wind energy projects that proposed to provide clean energy to Massachusetts electric utilities. Massachusetts passed on these projects, opting instead for Eversource’s Northern Pass Project, a new transmission line that will bring hydropower from Quebec to the New England electric grid.