AUGUSTA — The Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group met Dec. 12 over Zoom to discuss ideas for a launch pad for wind turbine hulls to be installed in the state’s proposed deepwater turbine port.

The state is considering three sites for the deepwater port: Mack Point, Sears Island and Eastport. Until their December meeting, group members had discussed only launching the massive wind turbine foundations by barge from the upland site to the water.

Transferring the foundations by barge requires deeper water, and building specialized barges can be expensive, Maine Port Authority Executive Director Matthew Burns said during the meeting. There also are other complicating factors, he said. Heavier foundations could require configuring multiple barges together.

As an alternative, the group discussed using a ramp. The state can employ launch pads, or ways, similar to those used for launching ships, Burns said. However, stationary ramps cannot be relocated, their mechanical components are more complex, and they can be expensive to build and maintain.

Building a ramp would require dredging at both Mack Point and Sears Island that is not necessary with other design concepts.

Using barges would require dredging 950,000 cubic yards of material at Mack Point, while using a ramp would increase that quantity to a million cubic yards. Dredging for a ramp at the Sears Island site would necessitate removing 175,000 cubic yards of material.

The group briefly discussed dredging to accommodate a ramp for use with a hybrid site concept that incorporates both the Mack Point and Sears Island sites. In that design concept, the state would have to remove 480,000 cubic yards of material to build a ramp at Mack Point.

The state has made no decision on a site or on the launching mechanism for the wind turbine foundations, Burns said in an email to Journal staff. It will continue to explore alternative concepts. Cost estimates for the design concepts discussed are not yet available, he said.

This was the fourth group meeting this year on plans for the port. At previous meetings, members and officials discussed the sites and concepts that being considered for the port.

As previously reported, Maine Department of Transportation is looking to construct a deepwater wind port to support the future commercial offshore wind industry and enable Maine to compete in the industry on the world stage. To date, there are no ports dedicated solely to constructing, operating and maintaining deepwater offshore wind turbines on the Eastern Seaboard, but this port would provide all of those services.

The state hopes the port will help reach its goal of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and help bring the state to carbon neutrality by 2045. There are also economic benefits to constructing the port, which will help support the state’s deepwater offshore floating wind turbine research and commercial endeavors.

Local conservation groups have come out against developing the Sears Island site. They fear it will  adversely affect the overall ecology and character of the island. The groups are not opposed to developing a port, but think it is better suited for Mack Point, which is already developed.

Another group meeting will be scheduled within the first quarter of 2023, Gannet Fleming Vice President Bill Plumpton said at the meeting.

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