SHARECOMMENTMORE

HALLOWELL, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After years of research and development, and months of debate, the Aqua Ventus deepwater wind turbine demonstration project, spear headed by the University of Maine, has received approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

The roughly $90 million project calls for the construction of two massive 6-megawatt wind turbines built on floating platforms to be installed off the coast near Monhegan Island.

"Offshore wind is our largest, renewable natural resource that we haven't even started to realize," stated Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

"Are we going to have all the answers on the first day? No, we won't," he explained. "That is why we are doing this pilot project, but once we figure this out, we have 150 gigawatts of offshore wind within 50 miles of the coast. That's 150 nuclear power plants worth of wind."

All three commissioners mentioned the high risks involved in such a costly project, and concern over the high initial cost of the project's electricity to consumers, but with the potential to become a world leader in offshore wind technology, two of the three felt the risk was worth the potential economic reward to the state.

"This positions the state for a significant investment from the Department of Energy," said Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor's Energy Office. "We need to continue to redouble our efforts to successfully meet a cost-effective project for Mainers, cause that is the bottom line Mainers are looking for. They are looking for economic benefits and jobs and they are also looking for lower costs so we can have more businesses move to the state."

The approval now clears the way for the project, which is a partnership between the university, Maine Maritime Academy, Cianbro and a host of other Maine businesses, to potentially receive a $47 million grant from the Department of Energy to help develop the technology and implement it in the gulf. The project is one of six finalists in the running for the grants which are expected to be awarded in late spring.