The US state of Maine has been eyeballing Scotland for inspiration in the offshore wind energy department, and it looks like they have some major catching up to do. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Scotland just took a giant step forward on its largest wind farm yet, the 1.14 gigawatt Seagreen 1 project. Meanwhile, Maine has yet to plant its first steel in the water. Nevertheless, the Pine Tree State may have a secret weapon up its sleeve.
The 1.1 GW Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore wind farms are a dime a dozen these days, but the Seagreen project is quite the headline-grabber. Size is one thing, and we’ll get to that other thing in a minute.
Engineered by a subsidiary of SSE Renewables under the moniker Seagreen Wind Energy, the plans call for a massive cluster of offshore wind turbines in UK’s Firth of Forth Zone.
Phase One alone will generate enough power for the equivalent of 1 million homes through two wind farms, dubbed Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo. That’s about 40% of all the homes in Scotland, according to SSE.
That’s just for starters. Fully built out, Phase 1 could add up to 1.5 gigawatts.
So, did the COVID-19 outbreak disrupt those plans? Evidently not. In a flurry of announcements last week, SSE doubled down on its decision to move forward on investing in the offshore project.
SSE also announced a deal with the firm Seaway 7 to do the heavy lifting (literally, the heavy lifting), and it put the final touches on a turbine contract. For those of you keeping score at home, Vestas drew the winning ticket.
Offshore Wind & The Energy Transition
The other thing that makes Seagreen noteworthy is that it is being pushed forward by companies that previously focused on the fossil fuel area. SSE Renewables’ parent SSE closed down its last remaining coal power plant earlier this year, though it still has a formidable presence in gas-fired power.
In addition, last week Total went in on the Seagreen project with a 51% stake.
Laying claim to 1.1 gigawatts of offshore wind in one fell swoop is pretty impressive for a fossil fuel company. However, that’s peanuts compared to Total’s goal of 25 gigawatts in renewable generation capacity by 2025. Total currently has 5 gigawatts in renewables under its belt, so doing the math, they have their work cut out for them.
The Scotland – Maine Connection
The Maine wind power connection comes in because earlier this year, right about the time when the COVID-19 outbreak hit the US in force, a contingent of US officials, including Maine Governor Janet Mills, set sail for Scotland, to take a tour of the country’s wind industry, including its floating wind turbine activity.
Governor Mills was already a renewable energy supporter and apparently the trip provided her with additional momentum.
Just one week after the trip, on March 11, Mills announced her administration’s intention to assess the seaport town of Searsport as an international wind industry hub.
“Maine is well-positioned to become a leader in the offshore wind industry just as Scotland has,” said Governor Mills, with an eyeball on both the US coast and the EU markets and the potential for building a $1 trillion industry.
If that sounds pretty ambitious, it is. Other east coast states are already pushing the offshore envelope, notably New York State which is also the host of the national Offshore Wind Energy R&D Consortium.
That’s where the secret weapon comes in. Maine has been cultivating its own homegrown floating wind turbine technology through the firm Aqua Ventus, and aims to be the first US state to achieve commercial operation.
That would certainly put Maine on the offshore map. Floating wind turbines come into play where the water is too deep for conventional turbine platforms, which translates into a more expansive reach for offshore development.
Aqua Ventus nailed down a power take-off contract with local utility CMP last fall, which was a big step for the floating wind project.
On the other hand, unresolved issues with Maine’s important fishing industry could put a damper on things despite Governor Mill’s support for offshore wind development, so stay tuned for more on that.
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Image (screenshot): via Seagreen.