The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $3.7 million to a University of Maine-led to further research and development of offshore wind technology.

The Money Will Help Finance Further Development of Floating Turbines That Could Lead to a Lucrative Clean-energy Industry in the State.

The DOE found enough promise in the project’s progress to spend the additional money, bringing the total investment to $6.7 million and allowing the consortium to complete engineering and design work to address technical concerns.

Habib Dagher, leader of UMaine’s offshore wind research team, said “the DOE was impressed by the Maine project’s low cost. It’s also the only project with a power purchase agreement in place.” Dagher also said “the project will be financed using a combination of public money, private investment and borrowing”.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy passed over the Maine Aqua Ventus project for a $47 million grant, but provided $3 million to keep the project alive. The winning proposals in Virginia, New Jersey and Oregon are currently behind on project milestones, creating the opportunity for Aqua Ventus to lead.

Aqua Ventus, plans to place a two-turbine, 12-megawatt project off the coast of Monhegan Island and is the only project of its kind that proposes the use of concrete for the floating platforms.

The DOE is impressed by the design because it holds the potential to drive down costs while moving construction closer to project sites, spreading out the economic impact, Dagher said, “the technology can be used to access more than half of the offshore wind resources in deep waters within 50 miles of the coast, and will create jobs”.

UMaine has already tested a smaller 65-foot-tall turbine deployed off Castine, Maine,  which performed as engineers expected, even as waves reached the equivalent of 75 feet.

Hopes for an offshore wind project are pinned on Aqua Ventus after Norwegian company Statoil spiked its plans to put four three-megawatt wind turbines 12 miles off Maine’s coast.

UMaine, which was selected as an alternative, is waiting in the wings if any of the winning proposals fail to meet milestones by May 1. Those programs with the greatest likelihood of success will be selected to move forward after May 31, Danielson wrote.

As part of the effort, UMaine will unveil a $13.8 million expansion of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center next week. The new structure will allow scientists to produce wind and waves of varying intensity, recreating the fury of the North Atlantic in a controlled setting on campus in Orono, Dagher said.