Aqua Ventus

Cold wind blows on UMaine project

Posted:  Friday, November 15, 2013 - 7:00pm
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People mill around posters before the November 14 University of Maine Aqua Ventus meeting in Bristol. Many Bristol residents are displeased about the idea of bringing two floating wind turbines off the coast of Monhegan. BEN BULKELEY/Wiscasset Newspaper

Roughly halfway through the University of Maine public meeting in Bristol November 14, a question kept popping up from the residents packed into the Bristol Consolidated School gymnasium regarding UMaine's proposed Aqua Ventus project off the coast of Monhegan:

What's in it for Bristol?

More than 70 people attended the meeting to hear about the proposal that would put two wind towers off the coast of Monhegan. While some people voiced support for the project, most people in attendance were against it.

Several people in attendance mentioned Wiscasset, and how the town was negatively affected when Maine Yankee left.

Bristol's Michael Dawson, who fishes out of New Harbor, spoke several times about how he felt the project didn't make sense for Bristol.

“I see no benefit for Bristol here,” he said. “What little tax incentive we get wouldn't offset the amount we'd lose from not being able to shrimp.”

UMaine's Jake Ward spoke with the crowd about the scope of the project and answered questions about the proposed six-megawatt turbines. The benefit to Bristol would be tax relief, and if successful, sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy for years, Ward said.

Bristol is one area where the cables could make landfall because of the town's ability to connect to the grid, Ward said.

“The Bristol substation is the best substation to connect to (Central Maine Power),” he said.

The cable that would connect the two wind turbines drew some of the loudest ire of the night, especially from Dawson.

Dawson said the cable that would bring the electricity back to the mainland could prove catastrophic to the local fishing industry.

“The cable is a big, big issue; that's why all these fishermen are here today. We don't want it here,” he said. “I've surveyed (the area near the proposed turbines), I've fished it. The coast goes north to south and you want to lay this cable east to west. If you put that cable out there, we are going to lose money.”

During the meeting several residents asked if the town could propose legislation or go through town meeting to try and block the project. Others asked if there would be any jobs available for local residents with the project, or if Bristol residents could sit on an advisory board that oversaw the project.

But not all residents in attendance were opposed to the idea of the project. Bristol's Diane Perry said the focus should be on preserving the waters where lobstermen drop traps and where shrimpers drag nets.

“How can we worry about catching lobster when the water's still warming?” she said. “As I understand, wind energy is the cleanest; there's no toxins, no pollutants and the way they are manufactured is very environmentally friendly. This is a way to prevent our oceans from getting warmer and promote positive energy.”

The UMaine project is one of seven that will be presented to the Department of Energy for funding in 2014. If picked, UMaine would have to adhere to permits and guidelines for funding. The soonest a full-size turbine could be launched would be 2016.

In the interim, a one-eighth scale model has been tested and the representatives from UMaine will speak November 25 in Port Clyde.