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With Statoil’s exit, wind industry looks to UMaine

AUGUSTA, Maine — Norwegian company Statoil’s decision to abandon its $120 million offshore wind-power project in Maine is a setback, renewable energy advocates say, but they still hope a strong offshore wind industry can be built in the state.

Statoil announced this month that changes in terms with the state and scheduling delays have created too much uncertainty for it to move forward with its proposal to put four wind turbines 12 miles off the coast of Maine.

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With the company’s departure, a proposal by the University of Maine and its partner companies is now the only project being considered for the state’s effort to harness wind to power homes and businesses. The public will soon get its first look into what that proposal entails.

Alternative energy advocates said they remain hopeful about the university’s prospects to obtain a contract with the state and, despite Statoil’s exit, are optimistic that Maine’s resources can attract future projects for offshore wind, an industry that remains in its infancy.

‘‘Fifteen to 20 years from now, we will see dramatic changes in technology and approaches,’’ said Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative. ‘‘We need to look long term. It’s not appropriate to say all is lost.’’

Statoil’s decision to leave followed political maneuvering by Governor Paul LePage to stop its project from moving forward and to allow the UMaine to submit a bid. The Republican administration first attempted to explicitly void Statoil’s agreement with the state, an Associated Press review of documents found. LePage later signed legislation reopening the competitive bidding.

Little is known about the project submitted in August by Maine Aqua Ventus, the umbrella company of the university and its partners, including the Pittsfield-based construction company Cianbro and Emera, the parent company of Bangor Hydro Electric Co. The university has said it is based in part on a 65-foot wind turbine launched off the coast of Castine in June but has kept the proposal confidential.

The public will get its first look at some details of the project when state regulators, who must approve the project, release a redacted version of the proposal next week.

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