Maine Maritime Academy to deploy first grid-connected floating turbine

Test wind turbine goes up in Penobscot Bay, off Castine

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Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:30pm
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PENOBSCOT BAY — This coming weekend, a prototype wind turbine will be towed from Brewer down the Penobscot River to the bay, where it will be moored just off of Dyce Head in Castine. This one-eighth-scale turbine, the VolturnUS 1:8, will then be erected, rising 60 feet above a floating concrete platform, and connected to the power grid on Monday, June 3. The prototype will remain in place for 30 days.

The deployment of the turbine is part of ongoing research at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composite Center, in Orono. There, engineers and designers are researching wind power in collaboration with the university-led DeepCwind Consortium. The consortium, funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, involves public and private entities, including the National Science Foundation-Partnerships for Innovation, Maine Technology Institute, and 30 industrial partners. The goal, according to the center, is the "development of a cost-effective, job-creating, innovative U.S. offshore wind technology."

The goal also includes reducing the the cost of offshore wind to 10 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020, in order to compete with other forms of electricity generation without subsidies.

Over the past five years, the result has been the creation of UMaine's patent-pending Volturn turbine system, which will be tested off of Monhegan, as well as Castine, this year. When finished, UMaine Composites Center hopes to erect a 12 megawatt, $96 million wind power farm along the coast. The first full-scale unit hookup to the power grid is targeted for 2016, and the longterm vision is to deploy five gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. The full buildout, according to the center, could potentially attract $20 billion of private investment to the state, and create thousands of jobs.

The prototype is to be one-eighth the scale of a six megawatt, 423-foot rotor diameter design. According to the center, the VolturnUS is the first floating turbine of its kind in the world, with floating hull and tower design.

Maine Maritime Academy vessels will deploy the turbine off of Dyce Head between Saturday, June 1 and Monday, June 3. MMA vessels will tow the turbine from the Cianbro modular manufacturing facility in Brewer to Bucksport and moor it until the next outgoing tide June 2, when it will be towed to Dyce Head and moored.