Aqua Ventus

Survey paints cool reception for wind project

Thu, 01/16/2014 - 6:30pm

    Early results of a Bristol survey show little support for Maine Aqua Ventus' proposed wind project.

    There are some caveats: No cutoff date has been set for the ongoing, online survey; and, although it asks for a ZIP code, nothing prevents non-Bristol residents from taking it.

    According to information the town's advisory committee on the wind project reviewed January 15, 103 surveys have been completed. Sixty-nine percent of those who filled them out on the committee's “Bristol Matters” website, said they feel they have enough information about the wind project to know if it's right for Bristol.

    The survey asks people to rate their level of support for the project based on their current knowledge. On a scale of 1 to 5, with “1” the least supportive, 63 percent checked “1.” Fifteen percent went with “2”; 5 percent rated their level of support a “3”; 8 percent, a “4”; and 9 percent checked “5,” the most supportive option regarding the project Maine Aqua Ventus is pursuing.

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    Maine Aqua Ventus is a partnership of the University of Maine at Orono and companies Cianbro and Emera. The university is developing the technology for the project.

    Jake Ward, vice president of innovation and economic development for UMaine, said he hadn't seen the Bristol survey and couldn't comment on it without knowing more.

    “I applaud Bristol for putting this committee together,” Ward said in a telephone interview on January 16. As planning continues on the project, Maine Aqua Ventus wants to hear local concerns and work on solutions to them, he said.

    Maine Aqua Ventus hears weekly from a Monhegan committee, Ward said. He hopes a similar relationship forms with Bristol's, he said.

    At the Bristol panel's January 15 meeting in the firehouse of the Bristol village of Round Pond, members decided to wait on inviting Maine Aqua Ventus representatives to talk with them.

    “You don't want to wave the white flag yet,” committee member Michael Dawson said.

    Maine Aqua Ventus would welcome a meeting with the committee, Ward said in the interview.

    The wind project calls for two turbines off Monhegan Island, to generate electricity Central Maine Power would buy. Under current plans, an approximately 15-mile cable would connect the turbines to a CMP substation in Bristol, Ward said.

    The cable's exact landfall in Bristol has not been determined, Ward said.

    The Bristol advisory committee's members said they don't know what, if any, authority the town will have over the project. That's part of what the selectmen-appointed committee is exploring; the panel is also working to get information out to the public and plan for the town's response to the project.

    Members discussed possible avenues to explore, including any impact the project could have if it goes near properties on the National Register of Historic Places. They also made plans to ask local fishermen how the project could affect them.

    Resident Craig Elliott, descended from Elliotts dating back to 1755 in the town, suggested the panel see what the impact has been on fishermen near another Maine Aqua Ventus project in Castine.

    The Castine project is set up differently and any impact there might not be comparable to what could happen in Bristol, committee members said. They did not rule out Elliott's idea, however.

    Another attendee, Newcastle's Tom Brewer, summers in the Bristol village of New Harbor. In an interview after the meeting, he said his line of work adds to his interest in learning about the project. Brewer is a researcher on climate change and renewable energy.

    Brewer said he hasn’t formed an opinion yet on the Maine Aqua Ventus project, or the Bristol portion of it.

    “I'm ambivalent about the whole project,” Brewer said.

    The committee set its next meeting for 7 p.m. January 28, at the New Harbor fire station.


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