Statoil suspends US floating turbine project

UNITED STATES: Statoil has halted work on its 12MW Hywind floating turbine project off the coast of Maine over fears that its future is jeopardised by legislation passed by the state senate.

A Hywind foating turbine being tested off Norway's coast

Local politicians last week passed a bill called LD 1472, that allows the University of Maine until 1 September to put forward a bid to run a rival offshore pilot project.

Despite Maine's energy regulator, the Public Utilties Commission (PUC), approving a term sheet for Statoil to proceed with the project in January, Statoil vice president of wind business development Lars Johannes Nordli yesterday said he believed this agreement was now in jeopardy due to the new law.

In a letter to the PUC dated 3 July, Nordil wrote: "Statoil interprets [LD 1472] to mean that the future of any contract for the Hywind Maine Project is in doubt, and that any final approval of such a contract would not occur by this summer as anticipated."

The letter continues: "Statoil is considering several locations for building a pilot park based on the Hywind floating concept, in addition to Maine, and cannot continue to spend its resources on this project without certainty that a contract for the project output will be finalised. Given the risk and uncertainty created by LD 1472, Statoil is therefore preparing to put the Hywind Maine Project on hold, while we continue to assess the changes made to the law, the total risk picture and progress plan going forward. "

Nordil added that the company was still open to returning to the project, which would comprise four 3MW  Hywind floating turbines about 12 miles (19 kilometres) off the Maine coast, if a power purchase agreement for the project could "be concluded according to the term sheet, and the total risk picture in Maine is acceptable".

The University of Maine is leading a team developing a 12MW demonstration project called New England Aqua Ventus 1, comprising two 6MW turbines on concrete semi-submersible foundations.

Both Aqua Ventus 1 and Statoil's proposed Hywind project were each awarded $4 million grants from the US Department of Energy late last year.