State's ocean energy potential goes beyond generating power

Article by Tux Turkel of Portland Press Herald.


PORTLAND - Maine's basic goal for offshore energy is to produce electricity, but the larger potential is to develop the manufacturing capacity to supply ocean energy components to the world, speakers at an ocean energy conference said Thursday.

"The real opportunity we see is through our R&D, manufacturing and assembly," said Ken Fletcher, director of Maine's state energy office.

Fletcher's comments came toward the end of a three-day EnergyOcean International gathering in Portland that drew hundreds of participants from industry and government to discuss the latest developments in wind, tidal and wave power.

Speaking at a panel discussion on Maine's ambitions for ocean energy, Fletcher sought to clarify earlier media reports that suggested the administration of Gov. Paul LePage was not supportive of the emerging industry. The state is fully committed, Fletcher said.

But because Maine electric customers already pay above-average rates, Fletcher explained, LePage opposes policies or subsidies that could add to the burden. The governor would prefer that any above-market costs are borne by the private sector, or perhaps be offset, someday, by lease payments on cross-state energy corridors.

Led by University of Maine researchers, the state is poised to test a scale model of a floating offshore wind turbine next summer near Monhegan Island. The prototype is meant to test technology ahead of a pilot wind farm in 2017, which will have a capacity of roughly 25 megawatts.

The power from the pilot project would be expensive, upwards of 20 cents per kilowatt hour. Media reports of the estimate had led the administration to publicly voice skepticism about offshore wind.

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