On Thursday, October 4, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) unanimously voted to table action on Statoil North America’s proposal to moor four floating wind turbines off the coast of Maine. Statoil North America, a division of Norway’s Statoil ASA, proposed the 12-megawatt pilot project in response to the PUC’s September 2010 request for proposals for deepwater offshore wind and tidal energy demonstration projects.
Two out of three PUC commissioners expressed concern that the proposed contract price—$290/MWh for 20 years—would negatively impact ratepayers and the state’s potential return on investment. While the PUC voted to reject the term sheet for now, Commission Chairman Thomas Welch said that his concerns could be alleviated if Statoil revises the term sheet to balance the project’s “potential benefits and certain costs” and “shore up the connection between the pilot and substantial benefits to Maine.”
Approval of the term sheet would enable Statoil to enter into a long-term contract to sell electricity at above-market rates to one or more of Maine’s investor-owned utilities—Bangor Hydro, Central Maine Power or Maine Public Service Company. The project is also seeking permission to connect to the ISO New England power grid.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has set a deadline for Tuesday, October 9, to determine if other firms besides Statoil North America are interested in bidding on the 22-square-mile offshore wind lease. A second round of comments, with a November 8 deadline, will determine the potential environmental impacts of the proposal.