U.S. Markets open in 8 hrs 55 mins

Prototype offshore wind turbine launched in Maine

BREWER, Maine (AP) -- What's called the first grid-connected offshore floating wind turbine in North America is being launched.

The 65-foot-tall turbine being deployed Friday is a prototype that's one-eighth the size of a full-scale wind turbine the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center hopes to launch in 2016. The new floating turbine, called the VolturnUS, was built by the Cianbro construction company at its site, near Bangor.

The prototype will be towed from Brewer down the Penobscot River to Castine this weekend. By Monday, it will be hooked up to the grid and start generating electricity.

Friday's launching sets the stage for more expanded offshore wind development off Maine's coast. UMaine leads the DeepCWind Consortium, whose goal is to generate 5 gigawatts of power by 2030, employing floating turbines located 20-50 miles offshore.

The launching was a prominent enough event to draw all four members of Maine's congressional delegation, who were expected to attend. Sen. Senator Collins, R-Maine, was to breaks a bottle of wine on the VolturnUS hull before a crane lifted the windmill from a dock into the river.

After the windmill is dropped into the river, it will be towed to a spot off the coast of Castine along the coast where it will be moored.

Once put in place, the VolturnUS will become the first floating wind turbine in the United States. Its builders also call the floating hollow concrete-composite foundation of the VolturnUS the only one of its kind in the world.

Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at UMaine, said his goal is to get offshore wind prices lower than what they are in Europe.

"Our shared goal with the Department of Energy is to get the cost to 10 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020," said Dagher. "It's key to the whole project."