State proposes to lease 15.2 square miles in Gulf of Maine to responsibly advance innovative floating offshore wind technology developed in Maine
Oct. 1, 2021
Augusta, MAINE – The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) today submitted an application (PDF) to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to lease a 15.2-square-mile area nearly 30 miles offshore in the Gulf of Maine for the nation’s first floating offshore wind research site in federal waters.
The State hopes to deploy a small-scale research array of 12 or fewer wind turbines on innovative floating hulls designed at the University of Maine. This project will advance UMaine’s patented technology and will foster leading research into how floating offshore wind interacts with Maine’s marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and more.
For more than a decade, the University of Maine has pioneered design and development of floating concrete hull technology for offshore wind turbines called VolturnUS, with the goal of creating a vibrant Maine-based floating offshore wind industry. Floating platforms are considered essential technology for deep-water offshore wind energy.
The area of the research site is limited to 15.2 square miles, which is smaller than initial projections and which represents approximately .04 percent of the 36,000-square-mile Gulf of Maine. This limited site is 29 miles from the nearest mainland point of Cape Small in Sagadahoc County, 23 miles from Monhegan, and 45 miles from Portland. It was selected following an extensive public outreach process led by GEO, which included an analysis by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (PDF) that helped identify areas that minimized known potential impacts on the fishing industry.
“Maine is uniquely prepared to create good-paying jobs across the state and reduce our crippling dependence on fossil fuels through the responsible development of offshore wind technology,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This small-scale research site 30 miles off the coast will become home to innovative technology developed here in Maine. The research project will help establish the best way for our state to embrace the vast economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind. Fundamentally, I believe that offshore wind and Maine’s fishing industry can not only coexist, but can help us build a stronger economy and a brighter, more sustainable future for Maine people.”
"This small-scale research array is a significant next step in the evolution of the University of Maine's patented floating offshore wind technology and our commitment to Maine’s future," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias, and vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System. "VolturnUS represents the work of so many people at UMaine. The innovation is led by Dr. Habib Dagher and the team at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and includes hundreds of students, faculty, and staff cooperating across disciplines to develop a renewable energy and economic development solution focused on Maine's unique needs and environment. They are contributing to the development of knowledge to advance offshore wind in Maine, the United States, and the world."
As an unprecedented research opportunity for offshore wind, the research site reflects the Mills Administration’s commitment to advancing offshore wind responsibly in Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine, which has some of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world and abundant potential to generate clean, renewable energy for Maine people.
The research site also aligns with the trajectory of the emerging offshore wind industry in the U.S., as ambitious clean energy generation targets by the Federal government and many states increase demand for commercial-scale projects in deep Federal waters, where floating platform technology will likely be required.
By addressing fundamental questions about how offshore wind can exist in the Gulf of Maine, the intent of the research array is to advance the development of Maine’s offshore wind economy while informing the responsible growth of floating offshore wind in the United States and beyond.
“As demand for offshore wind energy increases, Maine is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in floating offshore wind research, technology, and innovation,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “The abundant renewable energy potential in the Gulf of Maine is important for Maine’s long-term targets to transition to 100 percent clean energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow our economy.”
The application (PDF) filed today comes after bipartisan support by the Maine Legislature for LD 336, sponsored by Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, which declared the research array is in the public interest and authorized the Maine Public Utilities Commission to negotiate a power purchase agreement with the University’s offshore wind development partner, New England Aqua Ventus.
“I am very proud to have led the effort to expand Maine’s use of offshore wind while respecting the rights and needs of Maine fishermen. Maine is uniquely poised to be at the forefront of the offshore wind industry, and this project is an exciting step forward. It is vital that we shift our energy sources to renewable, and offshore wind can play a key role in that, but it is important that we protect our heritage industries,” said Senator Mark Lawrence, Senate Chair of the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. “This project is the culmination of work done to address the concerns of Maine fisherman while keeping our eye on new energy sources, and I look forward to seeing it through.”
“New England Aqua Ventus is pleased to partner with the State of Maine to develop the Research Array and utilize the innovative floating platform technology designed at the University of Maine,” said Chris Wissemann, CEO of Diamond Offshore Wind, one of the partners of New England Aqua Ventus, LLC. “We’re really excited to be able to help build a new clean industry for Maine, create jobs and expand the skilled workforce here. These floating platforms are designed to be built locally, which will provide career pathways for young people and grow the economy.”
Governor Mills signed LD 336 in June. In July, in response to concerns raised by Maine fisherman and to reflect the Administration’s priority of locating offshore wind in Federal waters, Governor Mills signed additional legislation, LD 1619, prohibiting new offshore wind projects in State waters, which extend three miles from shore.
This legislation also established an offshore wind research consortium, which will include members of Maine’s fishing industry, marine scientists, offshore wind industry experts, and others to oversee research priorities for the array.
“Responsible offshore wind development requires good science,” said Kate Dempsey, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “The State’s research array will help us understand how we can take advantage of this promising new technology while minimizing impacts on the marine environment and resource users, including Maine fishermen. That’s essential information to gather, since responsibly-developed offshore wind will be an important part of the diversified clean energy portfolio Maine needs to address climate change.”
“Maine’s proposed floating offshore wind research array is an opportunity to create a unique and important resource, which will serve as a basis for critical, U.S.-based offshore wind research,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, Executive Director of the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium.
As an abundant source of clean energy, offshore wind is viewed as a critical tool to reduce Maine’s nation-leading dependence on heating oil, provide renewable power as transportation and heating sectors are electrified, and keep here at home some $4.4 billion Maine people spend annually to import to fossil fuels.
Harnessing the unequaled wind resources off the coast of Maine is a key tool in meeting the State’s climate goals of moving Maine to using 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050, to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions. This effort is of importance in the Gulf of Maine, where surface temperatures are warming faster than nearly every other body of water in the world.
With some estimates forecasting offshore wind as a $1 trillion global market by 2040, responsible development of this industry is a unique economic opportunity for Maine to create good-paying jobs in clean energy fields, maritime careers, manufacturing and fabrication trades, engineering, shipbuilding, and more.
“The federal filing is an important step in what has been a thoughtful and balanced approach on offshore wind by the Governor and the Governor’s Energy Office. Offshore wind creates an enormous opportunity for Maine’s economy and marine businesses to grow, create thousands of jobs, and generate millions of dollars of investment into our state,” said Dana Connors, President & CEO Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “As we continue to fight climate change, Maine businesses stand ready to seize the opportunity and build expertise to adapt to the 21st century renewable energy economy. As we move forward, it is important to have an open dialogue and do everything we can to be inclusive, including and especially Maine’s fishing industry. Ensuring a collaborative outcome will serve to make offshore wind and our state stronger.”
“This is very exciting news for the state as we pursue the next step on the road to seeing offshore wind deliver its vital economic and environmental benefits,” said Jeremy Payne, Executive Director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “Maine is now a leader in advancing renewable energy which is bringing both clean energy and new jobs to our state. The Governor, her team, and the entire Maine Legislature deserve tremendous credit for bringing us to this exciting moment.”
“This application is a step in the right direction for Maine’s climate future and communities. Pursuing responsible, science-driven floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine, using technology developed by scientists at the University of Maine, will create a more sustainable future,” said William Sedlack, Program Manager at Maine Conservation Voters. “We applaud the Mills Administration’s commitment to advancing clean renewable energy while creating good-paying union jobs.”
“Ironworkers Local 7 is proud to be part of advancing the state’s renewable energy future. Maine has the opportunity to lead the way with floating offshore wind while creating new economic opportunities,” said Grant Provost, Business Agent for Ironworkers Local 7. “We applaud the Governor and legislature’s continued support of offshore wind while protecting state waters for commercial and recreational use. The Ironworkers look forward to the good paying, family sustaining union careers accompanying this one-of-a-kind opportunity.”
There is no specific timeline required for the application review by BOEM, which is separate process from the State’s work to date, but it is expected to take several years before all permitting is secured and construction could begin.
The research array is one element of the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative, a multi-faceted approach to offshore wind in Maine created by Governor Mills in 2019 to pursue a thoughtful, responsible path for offshore wind in Maine.
Other elements include a comprehensive economic plan for an offshore wind industry in Maine, the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap; a study of port infrastructure to support offshore wind focusing on Searsport; regional collaboration through the Gulf of Maine Task Force; and forging offshore wind research and development partnerships.
To further its commitment to responsibly advancing offshore wind, the State has recently joined the Regional Wildlife Science Entity (RWSE), a new organization dedicated to regional planning, coordination, and collaboration on ocean wildlife research and monitoring in the development of offshore wind energy.
In the past year, Maine has also signed an agreement with the United Kingdom to share offshore wind research, become members of the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, and joined the Business Network for Offshore Wind to create economic and investment opportunities for Maine businesses in offshore wind.
The Governor’s Energy Office invites involvement in planning Maine’s offshore wind future by engaging in the development of the Roadmap. For details on upcoming meetings, please visit maineoffshorewind.org.