Maine selects site for offshore wind port; US unveils Oregon floating wind areas

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Maine selects site for deepwater offshore wind port

The state of Maine has selected a site on Sears Island to build a $500 million deepwater offshore wind port.

The port is part of plans to build a commercial-scale floating wind farm by 2032 and install 3 GW of floating wind capacity by 2040.

Maine officials evaluated three potential areas for the port during a two-year consultation process.

“Sears Island is the best choice for an offshore wind port because it is already owned by the state, designated for the purpose of port development, will cost less in the short-term and long-term, and is expected to result in less environmental harm,” said Governor Janet Mills.

The 100-acre site selected by the state includes areas that could be used to manufacture offshore wind technology. Authorities plan to start applying for state and federal permits, which would include environmental assessment studies, later this year.

The Gulf of Maine hosts 156 GW of potential offshore wind capacity but most of this is floating wind as the waters are too deep for fixed-bottom technology. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) plans to hold the first commercial lease sale in Maine this year.

Legislation approved last year requires the state’s Public Utilities Commission to issue its first request for contract proposals by January 2026 and says that future solicitations will each seek at least 600 MW of offshore wind energy.

Aqua Ventus, owned by Mitsubishi subsidiary Diamond Offshore Wind, plans to start construction of the country’s first floating offshore wind turbine in a research area off the coast of Maine this year. 

The company is also developing the 144 MW Maine Research Array (MeRA) that will comprise of 10 to 12 turbines on semi-submersible floating concrete platforms that are being developed by the University of Maine.

                         Offshore wind projects in US North Atlantic

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Source: Department of Energy's 2023 Offshore Wind Market Report, August 2023.

New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Virginia have also announced plans to build port facilities for the offshore wind industry.

Massachusetts last week said it has acquired a site to build the Salem Offshore Wind Terminal. It will be the second port facility for the offshore wind industry in the state after New Bedford Wind Commerce Center, which is being leased to Vineyard Wind, the U.S.' first large-scale offshore wind project.

Developers Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) have so far installed five wind turbines for the 800 MW Vineyard Wind array, which started delivering clean power to the Massachusetts grid earlier this month. The project will consist of 62 turbines in total.

US selects first Oregon floating wind areas

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has selected two offshore wind areas (WEAs) off the coast of Oregon that could host 2.4 GW of floating wind capacity.

Oregon plans to develop 3 GW of floating wind capacity by 2030 and this designation is the last major regulatory step before scheduling a lease sale.

The Coos Bay WEA spans 61,204 acres and is located 32 miles from shore, while the Brookings WEA measures 133,808 acres and lies 18 miles off the coast.

The WEAs have water depths of around 1,500 meters, requiring the deployment of floating offshore wind turbines that could be manufactured domestically.

Indigenous tribes, commercial fishing groups, and some local politicians have raised concerns about the potential impacts that floating offshore wind farms may have on marine life.

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek said the state is committed to developing an offshore wind industry but wants to “ensure that coastal communities and Tribal nations are consulted throughout the process.”

In June last year, Kotek urged BOEM to pause the development of offshore wind energy to carry out more consultations with indigenous groups and coastal communities.

California and Maine also plan to build floating offshore wind farms.

Siemens to build $150 million US transformer factory

Siemens Energy plans to build a $150 million facility to manufacture power transformers in the U.S., the company said, potentially easing a major supply bottleneck for wind and solar developers.

The German power equipment supplier said construction of the factory in Charlotte, North Carolina, would create almost 600 local jobs.

In November, U.S. developers said a lack of high-voltage transformers could hold back wind, solar and battery deployment. Lead times for transformers and circuit breakers can be more than two years.

"As global demand for this critical technology increases, we see the long-term potential to increase our U.S. footprint, building on our longstanding presence in North Carolina," Siemens said in a statement.

Construction of the factory is slated to start this year with manufacturing due to begin in 2026.

A report by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), published in November, warned the lack of supply chain investments could undermine efforts to boost wind energy installations in the U.S. and Europe.

France awards 1 GW of onshore wind contracts

France has awarded contracts for 1 GW of onshore wind capacity in an oversubscribed tender.

France’s Ministry for Energy Transition was seeking to secure 925 MW of new wind energy but received proposals for 93 projects with a combined capacity of 1.8 GW. The government awarded contracts to 57 projects for a total capacity of 1.0 GW.

France will pay developers an average price of 87.23 euros/MWh ($94.5/MWh), up slightly from the 86.94 euros/MWh it agreed to pay in its last wind auction in December.

German utility RWE said it secured contracts for eight projects with a combined capacity of 108.7 MW in the latest auction. The projects are expected to start producing energy by 2028.

The contracts were awarded under France's multi-year energy program (PPE) that calls for regular tenders to boost renewable energy production.

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