Scheduling days and change of terms with the state of Maine has led the Norwegian company Statoil to pull out of a proposed $120 million offshore wind project. The announcement on Tuesday comes as a significant blow to the state, calling into question their ability to cultivate an offshore wind industry and reducing the likelihood of future investments. Industry officials once said the project could make Maine a leader in offshore wind power, but now the Norwegian company will focus its attention on a project in Scotland while continuing to explore other opportunities in the United States’ offshore wind market.
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Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, talked about what the decision could mean for the state:
“Anytime you have a huge international player that was looking to Maine as a potential host for its investment and it shifts course, that calls into question whether this is a hospitable place for any type of investment.”
Statoil had already gained initial state regulatory approval for a 20-year contract in January, with plans to construct four wind turbines 12 miles off the coast. Despite the promising start, the project was put on hold in July of the same year because Republican Gov. Paul LePage signed legislation that reopened the competitive bidding process to allow the University of Maine to submit a proposal.
LePage was publicly opposed to Statoil’s project, saying it would push $200 million in costs onto ratepayers. Even before the bidding was reopened, an outright attempt to void the agreement with Statoil was made with the state planning to limit the amount that home and business owners would contribute to the offshore wind project by half.
Now that Statoil is no longer involved, the University of Maine’s proposal is the only one remaining, which has so far been kept confidential. Even though the Public Utilities Commission recently ruled that details must be released by the end of this month, the lack of transparency has created concern about whether or not the project will definitely go ahead.
Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond summed up that concern. “There’s definitely a dark cloud over the state of Maine with Statoil leaving today,” he said, “and I don’t know if we ever recover fully from this in our offshore wind industry.”
Images by Statoil