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First US Offshore Wind Turbine Launches in Maine

Today marks a milestone for offshore wind energy in the U.S. with the official launch of a prototype floating turbine off the Maine coast, the first grid-connected offshore wind turbine deployed off the coast of North America. The 1/8-scale prototype VolturnUS, a 65-foot-high 20-kW turbine, will spend the summer being "de-risked" off the coast near Castine. Maine Senator Susan M. Collins did the honors, with a (scored) bottle of Madeira.

The project, backed the DeepCWind Consortium with the U. of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center and roughly 30 partners from government, academia, and industry, is one of seven offshore wind demonstration projects backed by the Department of Energy, and one of two being pursued in Maine, all exploring different technologies and strategies to lower the costs and complexities involved with offshore wind development. This particular project will focus on a semi-submersible platform, with a concrete hull and lightweight composite materials instead of steel. It also includes a buoy-based floating LIDAR system to measure wind resources and other metocean factors up to 600 ft above the surface.

Once proven out, this 1:8 pilot-scale turbine (the original plan proposed two 1:3-scale turbine systems) will be scaled up to 6-MW turbine with 423-ft-diameter rotors and deployed in 300-500 foot depths 12 nautical miles offshore near the island of Monhegan. The grand plan is for a 12 MW, $96 million pilot farm dubbed "Aqua Ventus" with berths for several large-scale turbines, to be grid-connected in 2016.

The DoE's Wind Powering America initiative calculates more than 4,000 GW of offshore wind energy resource potential. Maine has an estimated 156 GW of potential offshore wind capacity and a target of 5 GW of offshore wind deployments by 2030.

Lead image via live online broadcast of VolturnUS 1:8 launch ceremony.

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