US floating solar
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The University of Maine in the US has been awarded $1.4 million in federal funding to support the development of the New England Aqua Ventus 1 floating wind pilot in the Atlantic after the Public Utilities Commission had delayed the approval of power purchase agreements (PPAs).

The commission cited costs as being cause for the delay, but Maine governor Janet Mills took action on the issue in July, by signing legislation that compelled state utility regulators to move forward with power purchases.

The 12MW two-unit Aqua Ventus 1 project, located off the coast of Monaghan island, will be the first floating wind farm facility in US waters, and will test an ultra-lightweight concrete dubbed VolturnUS, alongside motion response mitigation technology originally conceptualised for NASA to detect and reduce vibrations in rockets.

The offshore facility had initially received approximately $40 million in federal funding, but development stalled when governor Mills’ predecessor delayed the issuance of a PPA, thus stalling self-generated funding.

The project is now expected by late-2021, and the US Department of Energy has noted potential benefits of space agency-led technology, including significant cost-savings, lighter platforms, and a lower, levelled cost of energy (LCOE), even when using conventional turbines.

Further testing and development will be undertaken by Harold Alfond W2 Wind-Wave Ocean Engineering Laboratory with the aim of significantly improving the light-weight technology concept.

Aqua Ventus I was one of 13 projects for $26m in combined funding by the DOE under the auspices of its so-called Aerodynamic Turbines, Lighter and Afloat, with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control (Atlantis) programme.

The project teams are tasked to develop new technologies for floating turbines using so-called 'control engineering', a concept using mathematics, physics and technology in the development of autonomous technology, and further develop autonomous control applications.

A 1:8-scale version of the VolturnUS concept was installed off Maine’s coast from 2013 to 2014, and represented the first offshore turbine to deliver power to the US grid.

Maine Aqua Ventus LP is the development consortium behind what will be a commercial project led by UMaine’s spin-off Maine Prime Technology.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently moving forward with plans for a “white paper” in which the prospects for floating wind to look at the prospects for floating wind power developments off the country’s northeast coastline, raising hopes that projects in the Atlantic could soon be added to the clutch of arrays moving ahead off California and Hawaii.

Developers Maine Aqua Ventus LP, the consortium behind the commercial project, will be led by UMaine’s spin-off Maine Prime Technology and is expected to turn a profit for investors which include Maine-based construction company Cianbro.

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The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently advancing plans for a “white paper” to look at the prospects for floating wind power developments off the country’s northeast coastline, raising hopes that projects in the Atlantic could soon be added to the clutch of arrays moving ahead off California and Hawaii.