A visual modeling of the Aqua Ventus wind turbines taken by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory from Squeaker's Cove.
A visual modeling of the Aqua Ventus wind turbines taken by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory from Squeaker's Cove.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan legislative committee wasted no time in unanimously voting down a measure sponsored by Sen. Dana Dow (R-Lincoln Cty.) that would have cancelled the University of Maine’s proposed floating offshore wind project sited 3 miles from Monhegan. LD 1262 would have prohibited the placement of wind turbines within 10 nautical miles of the Monhegan Lobster Conservation Area.

Longtime wind power critic Rep. Beth O’Connor (R- Berwick), a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, said she hoped that some of the concerns of the bill’s supporters can be addressed, but that “stopping this project midstream would set a very dangerous precedent.”

Committee chairman Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) said that by defeating the bill, it would send a message that the state is open for business and innovation and that it respects the wishes of Monhegan residents who support the wind project.

Dow and a number of Monhegan residents advocated for moving the two 586-foot-tall turbines out of concerns that they  would spoil the scenic beauty of the island. However, several of Monhegan’s public officials, and many island artists, opposed the bill, which would have effectively killed the offshore wind project and wasted 10 years of planning and tens of millions of dollars in investment, made the project ineligible for $40 million in federal funds, and prevented the state from potentially becoming a leader in floating wind-turbine technology. 

According to the wind project’s lead developer, University of Maine’s Dr. Habib Dagher, the amount of wind power potential in the Gulf of Maine is roughly equivalent to 156 nuclear power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy is currently preparing a draft environmental assessment of the proposed project.