CASTINE — VolturnUS is a small step in what investors hope will be a big impact on how electricity is produced.
The DeepCwind Constorium, a University of Maine led coalition of private and public partners, developed the first offshore wind turbine to produce electricity to the U.S. grid.
The consortium developed VoturnUS as a 1:8 scale model of the two 6-megawatt wind turbines it plans on building in the Gulf of Maine in 2016.
DeepCwind tested its prototype on June 15 in Castine Harbor. The floating wind turbine, with a concrete hull and tower made out of composite materials, began supplying electricity to the grid.
The first electricity supplied to the U.S. grid from an offshore turbine occurred as the prototype’s blades turned and electrons flowed through an undersea cable connected to the grid.
The VolturnUS technology is the culmination of five-plus years of collaborative research and development directed by the consortium. The initiative is led by UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp.
The center designed and constructed the prototype. While Cianbro assembled the structure at its Brewer facility near the Penobscot River.
The project began in 2006 as Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures Composite Center and Cianbro President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Vigue discussed the wind power potential off the coast of Maine.
The winds, located 20-50 miles off the coast, could produce the same output of electricity as 60 nuclear power plants, according to Dagher.
“We talked about what a huge opportunity this would provide for the state of Maine,” Dagher said. “Wind power is the state’s greatest untapped natural resource. Our goal is to export energy just like lobsters.”