Written by Peter Drown Monday, 14 February 2011 14:36
A team of interdisciplinary researchers from the DeepCwind Consortium attended the Maine Wind Energy Conference in Augusta January 24 and 25. The conference provided a forum to discuss milestones thus far to develop floating wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine. Researchers answered questions from interested stakeholders, briefed policy-makers and local media, and forged new alliances with state and national business leaders. The conference demonstrated a broad show of support for the DeepCwind Consortium. Newly elected legislators from both sides of the aisle stopped by the Consortium’s booth to voice their support for the project and to encourage the researchers involved in the day-to-day operations.
Perhaps most emblematic of the renewable energy leadership taken by the DeepCwind Consortium was an entire track on Tuesday devoted to offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine, including an assortment of DeepCwind Consortium representatives addressing economic development, the results of a public opinion survey regarding wind energy, the offshore wind industry supply chain, permitting, and environmental considerations.
In a presentation by Dr. Gary Hunt, an economist and professor at UMaine, entitled “From 20 Cents to 10 Cents,” he laid out the cost versus price predictions for deepwater offshore wind energy. Dr. Hunt described a model incorporating learning effects and demonstrated how the cost per kilowatt-hour from deepwater offshore wind technology could be reduced significantly over next decade. As we follow the learning curve for the deepwater offshore wind industry, he said, costs will decrease, similar to that of many other complex industries.
Dr. Mario Teisl and Caroline Noblet of the University of Maine’s School of Economics also revealed the preliminary results of a public opinion survey. Hundreds of respondents from around Maine said they support wind energy—deepwater offshore wind in particular—but are unsure that wind will be the overall solution to Maine’s and the country’s energy needs. “They want an energy portfolio,” Teisl said.
Dr. Melissa Landon Maynard, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maine and project lead for geophysical and geotechnical investigations at the UMaine Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site, shared how her research applies to the floating technology. “The Gulf of Maine seabed is as diverse and complex as the mainland,” she said. These complexities translate into unique anchoring and mooring challenges for the floating technology that ultimately result in cost. Her research aims to solve those challenges and reduce both the financial cost and environmental impacts.
The Maine Wind Energy Conference’s Offshore Wind Track provided an excellent learning opportunity for the wind industry and general public. Despite the frigid temperatures, approximately 200 attendees ventured to the booths and presentations. The broad support was an encouraging sign for the DeepCwind Consortium, as it continues to move Maine towards energy independence and a sustainable, prosperous future.