The Public Utilities Commission has given the first nod to the University of Maine and its partner companies’ proposal to build a 12-megawatt wind project off Maine’s coast.
In a 2-to-1 vote Tuesday morning, the PUC approved the terms of an agreement between the state and Maine Aqua Ventus, clearing the first major hurdle in the effort to build two turbines off Monhegan Island.
The project is expected to generate enough power for as many as 7,000 Maine homes, but will cost ratepayers roughly $9 more a year on their utility bills.
Habib Dagher, the leader of the project, says offshore wind is Maine’s largest renewable natural resource that the state hasn’t even started to utilize.
“I think of that as we started using wood in Maine 200 years ago or so. We’ll be starting to use offshore wind as a resource,” Dagher said. “Are we gonna have all the answers on the first day, no we won’t. That’s why we’re doing the pilot project. But once we figure this out we have 150 gigawatts of offshore wind within 15 miles of the coast. That’s 150 nuclear power plants worth of wind that we haven’t even touched yet.”
Tuesday’s vote comes nearly a year after the PUC gave initial approval to Norwegian company Statoil’s own proposal for an offshore wind project.
That project was scrapped following maneuvering by Governor LePage’s administration.