DOE grant $3.7 million for offshore wind energy project

The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded an additional $3.7 million to the Maine Aqua Ventus offshore wind project, Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced Monday.

The investment is part of the Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Project program and builds on the $3 million awarded to the project in May 2014. It brings the total award for the University of Maine to $6.7 million, the same amount awarded to the second phase demonstration projects.

“We are thrilled that the Department of Energy continues to recognize the enormous potential of the Aqua Ventus project and its innovative deepwater, offshore wind technology,” a statement from the senators said.

“With this additional investment of $3.7 million, the Aqua Ventus project will be on a level playing field with the other demonstration projects and competitive for potentially advancing to the construction phase of the demonstration program.

“Under the leadership of the University of Maine and a world-class consortium, the Aqua Ventus project has made significant research and development strides to date, including completing the hull design and further demonstrating the cost advantages of concrete. With additional funding, Aqua Ventus will be able to complete their engineering and design work and address any remaining technical questions.

“This extraordinary investment is proof that the DOE recognizes what we have long known: that the Gulf of Maine is a tremendous resource for wind energy that could provide an affordable source of renewable energy directly to the country’s population centers on the East Coast, while creating thousands of new jobs in Maine and diversifying the state’s electricity supply. We will continue to support the University of Maine as it participates in this demonstration program and to help ensure that Maine remains at the forefront of deepwater, offshore wind power development and innovation,” the senators continued.

Professor Habib Dagher, director of the university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and principal investigator of the DeepCwind Consortium, welcomed the grant. “We are pleased that the Department of Energy decided to award the University of Maine an additional $3.7 million to put the project on financial par with the other offshore wind demonstration projects,” he said.

“We continue to make significant progress by demonstrating the technical and cost reduction advantages of the VolturnUS floating concrete offshore wind technology.

“Our team is busy putting the final touches on the design of the 6 megawatt hulls for the 12 megawatt demonstration project. The additional funding will help us complete all aspects of the project planning, negotiate supply contracts with industrial partners and approach financial close for the project. The technology has important national impact, as it allows us to more cost effectively access over 50 percent of the U.S. offshore wind resource in deep waters within 50 miles of the coast and creates local and regional jobs, as the hulls can be produced near the project site.”

All projects will have until May 1 to meet additional milestones, but the university project and the other selected alternate are the only projects receiving additional DOE funding.

Decisions about which projects to advance will be announced by the DOE on May 31.