Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation, and RWE Renewables have formed a joint venture to participate in University of Maine’s (UMaine’s) floating offshore wind technology demonstration project
The joint venture, New England Aqua Ventus (NEAV), will collaborate with UMaine, on the project, which consists of a semisubmersible concrete floating platform supporting a 10-12 MW turbine.
The VolturnUS floater will be deployed in a state-designated area two miles south of Monhegan Island, 14 miles from the Maine coast. Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables, with years of collective offshore energy experience and success, will invest US$100M to build the project and help demonstrate the technology at full scale.
The purpose of the demonstration project is to evaluate the floating technology, monitor environmental factors and develop best practice for offshore wind to coexist with traditional marine activities.
An immediate priority for the new development team is to engage with the fishing industry, other maritime users, coastal communities and other interested parties on how to ensure that floating wind can optimally provide economic growth to the state. The project will supply electricity to the Maine grid. Construction, following all permitting, is due to be completed in 2023.
As developer, NEAV will 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.
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 UMaine on research, development and design to take the technology elsewhere in the US and the world. The concrete hulls for the semisubmersible are designed to be built in communities adjacent to potential projects, generating local construction jobs and other benefits during the building and assembly phase. The project is projected to produce more than US$150M in total economic output and create hundreds of Maine-based jobs during the construction period.
Since 2008, UMaine has researched floating offshore wind technology as a solution to reduce the state’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. After winning funding from the US 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 country in 2013, a one-eighth scale prototype of its VolturnUS floater.
The success of the project led to additional funding from the DOE to further advance VolturnUS technology, which has been issued with 43 patents to date. The university and Cianbro sought to partner with an offshore wind developer to further demonstrate the technology on a commercial scale. UMaine will continue to own VolturnUS intellectual property and license it to NEAV for the project.
“Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables bring global expertise in offshore wind project development and construction, and we look forward to working with them to demonstrate UMaine’s floating hull technology in Maine waters,” said UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center executive director Habib Dagher. “Our design is ideally suited for deepwater deployment anywhere and has the potential to play a significant role in global efforts to decrease dependence on fossil fuels.”
Diamond Offshore Wind chief executive Chris Wissemann said: “We are pleased to partner with the university to bring its ideas for floating offshore wind to fruition. This project is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate new technology that can be built in Maine, create jobs in Maine, and demonstrate how fishing and offshore wind can co-exist.”
RWE chief operating officer offshore wind Sven Utermöhlen said: “We see great potential for floating windfarms worldwide, especially in countries like the US, with deeper coastal waters. 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.”
Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden issued a joint statement in which they said: “Maine is a national leader when it comes to using our natural resources sustainably to create jobs, protect our environment and power our economy.
“UMaine’s floating offshore wind project carries on that tradition. We have strongly supported UMaine’s development of the Aqua Ventus project and applaud the US$100M public-private partnership. Maine’s offshore wind resource potential is 36 times greater than the state’s electricity demand, making this project so significant for Maine’s clean energy future.”