Photo: University of Maine

Heavyweights join US floating wind project

The University of Maine will collaborate with the Mitsubishi Corporation and RWE Renewables to develop UMaine’s floating offshore wind technology demonstration project off the coast of Maine.

New England Aqua Ventus, LLC (NEAV), a joint venture between Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation, and RWE Renewables, will as the developer own and manage all aspects of permitting, construction and assembly, deployment and ongoing operations for the project.

UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center will continue with design and engineering, research and development and post-construction monitoring.

The project will consist of a single semisubmersible concrete floating platform that will support a commercial 10–12 megawatt wind turbine and will be deployed in a state-designated area two miles south of Monhegan Island and 14 miles from the Maine coast.

The purpose of the demonstration project is to further evaluate the floating technology, monitor environmental factors, and develop best practices for offshore wind to coexist with traditional marine activities.

Construction, following all permitting, is expected to be completed in 2023.

Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables will invest $ 100 million to build the project and help demonstrate the technology at full scale.

The project is projected to produce more than $ 150 million in total economic output and create hundreds of Maine-based jobs during the construction period.

“We see great potential for floating wind farms worldwide, especially in countries like the U.S., with deeper coastal waters,” said Sven Utermöhlen, chief operating officer, Wind Offshore Global of RWE Renewables.

“This innovative project combines the University of Maine’s knowledge with the state’s maritime heritage, allowing RWE Renewables to gain the experience that can help us provide future opportunities to grow local economies and produce clean, renewable power.”

NEAV will continue to involve Maine companies in permitting, construction and assembly, deployment, and ongoing operations and maintenance of the project. In addition, NEAV has committed to working with the University of Maine on research, development, and design to take the technology elsewhere in the US and the world.

The developers will also work with the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy to attract K–12 students to science, engineering and business programs, prepare college students and help to create a skilled workforce in Maine with the technical skills necessary to support offshore wind development and operation.

“This project south of Monhegan is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a new technology that can be built in Maine, create jobs in Maine, and demonstrate how fishing and offshore wind can co-exist,” said Chris Wissemann of Diamond Offshore Wind.

”Together with RWE, our engineers conducted an extensive due-diligence review of UMaine’s VolturnUS floating wind technology, and believe it is a world leader in floating wind that reduces costs and creates local jobs. We are really focused on creating economic opportunities for Maine as this new carbon-free economy emerges.”

The University of Maine has researched floating offshore wind technology since 2008. After winning funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the university worked with Maine-based construction firm Cianbro to build and deploy the first grid-connected offshore wind turbine in the US in 2013, a one-eighth scale prototype of its VolturnUS floating hull technology.

The success of the project led to additional funding from the DOE to further advance the VolturnUS technology, which has been issued 43 patents to date. UMaine will continue to own its VolturnUS floating hull intellectual property and license it to NEAV for this project.

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