Gulf of Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array

In 2021, after extensive stakeholder outreach and engagement, Maine applied to the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to lease a 15.2 square mile site in the Gulf of Maine to develop the nation’s first floating offshore wind research site in federal waters. The array is a key priority for the State that will help fulfill the objectives of the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap by advancing critical research and innovation to develop offshore wind responsibly.  

The research array will allow the State, the fishing community, wildlife experts, and many others to learn about the potential impacts of floating offshore wind and inform commercial development that capitalizes on innovative technology and abundant resources while protecting our interests, industries, environment, and values. Maine’s original application to BOEM is available to view here.  

In 2021, with bipartisan support the Maine Legislature passed LD 336, “An Act to Encourage Research to Support the Maine Offshore Wind Industry,” which declared the research array in the public interest by and authorizes the Maine Public Utilities Commission to negotiate a contract for up to 144 MW of energy from the proposal proposed floating offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine.  

Maine moved forward with the research lease application to maximize research opportunities at the site, which is a key component of the lease agreement between the State, the developer, and BOEM. The Maine Offshore Wind Research Consortium will play an important role in identifying research priorities for the State at the array. Broadly, the Consortium is tasked with creating a common understanding of the local and regional impacts – both positive and negative – of floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine and is led by a diverse advisory board with representatives from the fishing community, research institutions, environmental groups, and the offshore wind industry, among others. 

On May 28, 2024, BOEM offered a research lease to Maine, initiating a 30-day period during which the State will review the offer as well as technical and legal requirements with the developer. The State may accept the lease any time within this period. BOEM's offer represents a significant milestone in the development of offshore wind energy for Maine, which has the potential to deliver good jobs and economic development for the state and protect the environment and wildlife by reducing harmful emissions that contribute to climate change.  

To stay up to date on Maine’s research array, sign up to receive email updates here. If you have questions, please refer to the FAQs below or contact offshorewind@maine.gov.  

Research Array Site Map
Caption: Map of the research array lease BOEM has offered to Maine as of May 24 2024. See FAQs below for more information on the lease location.

Frequently Asked Questions

How was the Research Array Lease Site Determined?

After announcing its intent to pursue the research lease in 2020, the State worked with the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) over the course of a year to engage ocean users and other stakeholders to gather feedback on optimal engagement strategies, siting criteria, and research priorities for the array. During that period, the State hosted several webinars, a scoping workshop, and many small group and one-on-one discussions. In selecting a preferred site for the array, the State considered multiple factors including fishing activity, wildlife, cost, bathymetry, navigation, defense, and research accessibility. 

Through this outreach process, Maine identified an initial Area of Interest (AOI) of roughly 770 square miles based on potential grid interconnections, a minimum bottom depth of 150 feet, greater than 20 miles offshore to reduce fisheries and visual impacts, and less than 40 miles offshore for technical and cost considerations. The initial AOI was winnowed down to the Narrowed AOI based on stakeholder input, geospatial analysis of physical and biological information, and consultations with federal and state agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and research institutions. In October 2021, Maine applied for the lease following all existing guidance and regulations. For more information on the siting process, please see Section 3.0 of the Lease Application. 

Following Maine’s application, BOEM initiated a review which is separate from the State's process and issued a Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI) to identify whether there was any competitive commercial interest in the area. In early 2023, BOEM announced its “Determination of No Competitive Interest” for the site and proceeded to announce its intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the wind energy research lease in May 2023. This Notice of Intent (NOI) initiated a 30-day public comment period, followed by the publication of the EA in July 2023. BOEM was also required to conduct a Section 106 review under the National Historic Preservation Act and posted its Finding of No Historic Prosperities Affected in November 2023. 

As BOEM underwent its application review process, consultations with the U.S. Coast Guard raised concerns with the proposed shipping fairways. As a result of its review process, including input from federal agencies, BOEM offered Maine an alternative lease area located within the Request for Competitive Interest and in close proximity to the originally proposed site. The majority of the area is within Maine’s Narrowed Area of Interest that was developed with stakeholder input and is further offshore than the original site. BOEM issued a lease for 15,000 acres and at the request of the state, it includes a requirement that no more than 9,700 are developed, with any unused acres to be relinquished to BOEM. The lease is 32.2 miles (28.0 nautical miles) from shore and 29.1 miles (25.3 nautical miles) from Monhegan Island. The new lease area will be limited to hosting no more than 12 turbines.

How does the Research Array project differ from the commercial leases? Is the Research Array still worth doing?

The research array is designed to maximize research and development of floating offshore wind.  

It is smaller in scale than commercial projects in the Gulf of Maine and on a faster timeline than the commercial leasing process for the Gulf of Maine, with the auction scheduled for later in 2024. Research conducted at the array will inform a set of best practices for future commercial scale floating offshore wind projects in the Gulf of Maine while supporting the advancement of Maine's floating offshore wind supply chain. Maine’s research array project is separate from the ongoing offshore wind commercial leasing process for the Gulf of Maine. For more information about Maine’s first commercial offshore wind solicitation and timeline, visit this page.

What is the project timeline?

Advancing offshore wind projects require a variety of federal and state requirements.  Over the course of the last three years, the state has worked to move the research array forward through the application for the BOEM lease, the Governor signed bipartisan legislation authorizing the PUC to negotiate a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to support the project. Once the PUC makes a final determination on the PPA, the developer will move forward with site assessment work and other work that is required prior to seeking federal approval to construct the project. A research lease is still subject to the same rigorous review and approval process that commercial leases are which will include a Site Assessment Plan (SAP), a Construction and Operations Plan COP), and a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Review. This process involves multiple opportunities for public review and comment over the coming years.

How will North Atlantic Right Whales be protected?

The North Atlantic Right Whale is an endangered species of critical interest which is currently being studied by Maine DMR as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, BOEM, the New England Aquarium, and other federal agencies. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause whale deaths. There are also no known links between large whale deaths and offshore wind activities based on the best available science. 

Any offshore wind activity in state or federal waters must meet the permitting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Marine Mammals Protection Act. BOEM is working with partners to develop appropriate mitigation, monitoring, and reporting for whales and other protected species. See the NOAA/BOEM Final North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy for more information. 

The Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap highlighted the need to collect more data on the distribution, abundance, and movement patterns of marine mammals among other wildlife, and the Maine Offshore Wind Research Consortium identified marine mammals as a priority topic for future research funding. The State recognizes the importance of increased research and monitoring on this topic and has built a robust monitoring program across the Gulf of Maine that includes passive acoustic monitoring, visual surveys, and prey sampling. The work is being done with federal and state partners, Universities, and research institutions. More information about these programs can be found on the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ website. In addition to this broadscale work, DMR has planned a passive acoustic tracking array that will be done in conjunction with the research array. This higher density deployment of PAM sites is slated for July 2025 and should allow for the location and tracking of vocalizing whales through the area. Data from the tracking array could potentially lead to more detailed information, including estimated number of calling whales within the detection range of the acoustic recorder, vocalization rates, acoustic density estimates, and the depths at which whales vocalize. 

What role will the Maine Offshore Wind Research Consortium play?

Since 2023, the Maine Offshore Wind Research Consortium Advisory Board has been working to develop, prioritize, and fund key research priorities that will inform the responsible development of floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine. The first three funded projects will be complete in 2025 and may inform the research array’s development, notably approaches to co-existence with fisheries and seafloor mapping that will fill habitat and seafloor classification data gaps within and around the research lease and along potential cable corridors. The Research Consortium will continue to prioritize projects, collaborate with other research entities, share data, and seek additional funding to advance collective understanding of (1) opportunities and challenges caused by the deployment of floating offshore wind projects to the existing uses of the Gulf of Maine, (2) methods to avoid and minimize the impact of floating offshore wind on ecosystems and existing uses of the Gulf of Maine, and (3) ways to realize cost efficiencies in the commercialization of floating offshore wind projects.

Research Array Background 

The State announced its intent to apply for a research lease in November 2020 and spent the following year conducting extensive outreach and engagement with existing ocean users and stakeholders to inform the siting process and research framework. The full application, including the research framework (appendix A) is available to view here

The research array may host up to 12 floating offshore wind turbines sited within an area up to 9,700 acres in size. The array differs from commercial offshore wind leases in that it may allow for empirical evaluation of offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine environment in real time. Research conducted at the array will fill existing data gaps by studying human dimensions, ecological interactions, and technological development related to floating offshore wind technology. The data gathered at the array will be used to inform commercial-scale offshore wind development. Data is also expected to be shared publicly. 

In developing the lease application, GEO partnered with multiple state agencies including the Maine Departments of Marine Resources and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to engage the fishing community and other stakeholders to 1) inform and educate the public about the project; 2) solicit ideas, data, experiences, expertise and first-hand knowledge to inform the siting of the research array; 3) understand the potential concerns and conflicts with existing ocean users and resources; and 4) initiate a dialogue to consider how to avoid or mitigate potential impacts. The State also solicited input on key research questions and areas of focus that resulted in the research framework. 

The State is working with University of Maine and its development partner, Diamond Offshore Wind, to develop the array. The Advanced Structures and Composites Center at UMaine has been a pioneer in the development of floating offshore wind platforms and holds over 70 floating turbine patents. Diamond Offshore Wind is a leader in the sector with experience owning and operating seven commercial offshore wind projects and 12 independent offshore wind transmission lines.  

After receiving Maine's application, BOEM conducted a review process that included a Request for Competitive Interest, an Environmental Assessment, a Section 106 review under the National Historic Preservation Act, and consultation with other federal agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard. BOEM received multiple rounds of public comment throughout this review process, notably during the Request for Competitive Interest and Environmental Assessment. 

For more information on Maine’s research array, visit BOEM’s Gulf of Maine website and refer to the Research Lease Application tab.