Good news for UMaine and Maine: New England Aqua Ventus

Dear University of Maine community:

I’m writing this afternoon to share some incredibly good news for the University of Maine and the state of Maine.

Today we announced that UMaine will collaborate with New England Aqua Ventus, LLC (NEAV), a joint venture between Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation, and RWE Renewables, the second largest company in offshore wind globally, to develop UMaine’s floating offshore wind technology demonstration project off the coast of Maine. A news release is online. The New England Aqua Ventus offshore wind project is a critical milestone in the commercial realization of UMaine’s internationally recognized offshore wind technology that was developed at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center on campus.

UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center has been leading the Aqua Ventus floating offshore wind demonstration project off Monhegan Island, funded through $50 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. On Dec. 9, 2019, the project secured a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement and started negotiations with major developers to deploy North America’s first commercial-scale floating offshore wind turbine.

The project will consist of a single semisubmersible concrete floating platform that will support a commercial 10–12 megawatt wind turbine and will be deployed in a state-designated area 2 miles south of Monhegan Island and 14 miles from the Maine coast. The purpose of the demonstration project is to further evaluate the floating technology, monitor environmental factors and develop best practices for offshore wind to coexist with traditional marine activities. It will supply clean, renewable electricity to the Maine grid.

Construction, following all permitting, is expected to be completed in 2023.

The project is projected to produce more than $150 million in total economic output and create hundreds of Maine-based jobs during the construction period.

When fully operational, this project will be the largest commercialization success for a UMaine R&D technology — the first for UMaine to attract $100 million of commitment from major global developers to prove the commercial viability of a technology that was designed, invented, and patented at UMaine, potentially leading to the growth of a whole new industry in the state.

This project demonstrates the value of Maine’s research university and its mission to address the needs of the state and beyond, including responding to our changing climate and the desire to control our own energy supplies. It aligns with Maine’s economic development goals and is a clear return on the state’s investment in the university.

This is a proud and historical moment for the state’s flagship university and particularly for the hundreds of faculty, staff and students involved in this 12-year project, led by Habib Dagher, ASCC executive director, and Jake Ward, vice president for innovation and economic development. This project represents years of work by many individuals, and the support of many others, from our brilliant faculty to legislators and Gov. Janet Mills. Hundreds of students have learned and trained on this project in many disciplines: engineers, marine scientists, economists, communicators, social scientists, and more. They benefited from experiential learning that they will soon be able to see in action off Monhegan Island.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy