- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - An offshore wind power pilot project led by the University of Maine is back in the running for a major federal grant, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Department of Energy elevated the project’s status after a slew of independent cost estimates showed the project’s technology will reduce the cost of offshore wind development, the UMaine offshore wind research team’s leader, Habib Dagher, said from Orono.

The Aqua Ventus project was originally passed over for a $47 million grant, but the Department of Energy awarded some funding because the project showed promise.

But the project is now elevated to top status in the competition and will be one of up to three leading projects each eligible for up to $40 million in additional funding for the construction phase, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, said Friday.

Aqua Ventus would put off the coast of Monhegan Island a two-turbine, 12-megawatt project, enough to power 8,000 homes. It’s unique because it would use concrete for the floating platforms.

Dagher said such technology could harness up to 70 percent of the U.S. offshore wind resource.

The technology drives costs down because the units can be fabricated dockside, meaning barges aren’t needed to assemble them offshore, he explained.

The goal, according to Dagher, is for offshore wind in U.S. to compete in the market with no subsidies.

“That’s where we’re heading with this technology,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, said it’s a pivotal step in securing future investments for the project and well-paying clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Hopes for an offshore wind project are pinned on Aqua Ventus after Norwegian company Statoil spiked its plans to put four three-megawatt wind turbines 12 miles off Maine’s coast. Statoil’s decision followed maneuvering by Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to reopen competitive bidding.

Along with the Aqua Ventus project, the Department of Energy on Friday also named the Atlantic City Windfarm project developed by Fishermen’s Energy of New jersey and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation’s Icebreaker project.

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