Statoil project approved by Maine energy regulators

Agreeing PPA is next priority for 12MW floating trial

An ambitious plan to install four 3MW turbines mounted on floating platforms off the north east coast of USA has been approved by state energy regulators.

Yesterday’s decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) allows developer Statoil to focus on the next challenge, which is to assess the conditions that have attached to regulatory approval and agree a power purchase agreement (PPA) with utility, Central Maine Power.

"This decision is an important milestone," said Kristin Aamodt, Statoil’s project manager for the Hywind trial in Maine, speaking with Windpower Offshore. "We will review the conditions that have been set by the PUC and seek to finalise the term sheet," she added. An agreed term sheet forms the basis for a PPA.

If the Hywind project is to be built, Statoil will also need to win a large grant from the US Department of Energy (DoE) as well as to secure investment tax credits (ITCs). Last year, the project was awarded an initial, $4m (€3m) DoE grant, but it will have to beat competition to gain a much larger grant, of up to $47m, in order to transfer the project from the drawing board to the water.

If built, four Hywind floating platforms will be installed about 12 miles (19km) off the Maine coast, east of Boothbay Harbour, where water depth is about 460 feet (140m). The Hywind platforms will be mounted with 3MW turbines.

Statoil’s ambitions for its Hywind technology extend beyond Maine. Having tested it in Norway for three years, and achieving higher-than-expected electricity output, the energy giant continues to consider a multi-platform trial off Scotland. "Scotland is still an option for us," confirmed Aamodt.

Last year, the Scottish government said it would propose a higher financial incentive for such innovative offshore wind technology.

A trial in Japanese waters is also possible. Last October, a 40-strong delegation from Japan visited the Hywind trial inNorway and talks are underway between Statoil and potential Japanese partners.