January 19, 2022
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management determines no competitive interest exists for State’s proposed research site in the Gulf of Maine, allowing plans for nation’s first research array dedicated to floating offshore wind to move forward.
Augusta, MAINE – The Mills Administration today welcomed the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s determination that no competitive leasing interest exists for a site in the Gulf of Maine that is proposed for a small-scale floating offshore wind research array, featuring patented technology developed by the University of Maine.
The decision by the Federal agency allows the State’s application for a Federal research lease for the proposed site – which the State has identified as a 15.2-square-mile area of Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine some 45 miles offshore from Portland – to move forward. The final size and location of the research site will be determined by BOEM during its leasing review process.
“This decision by BOEM is a positive step forward in Maine’s responsible pursuit of floating offshore wind research,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “The research array is the cornerstone of Maine’s judicious approach to floating offshore wind, which emphasizes cooperation and collaboration with Maine’s fishing industry and environmental community to conduct important research and testing of this new technology and evaluate its potential impacts on existing uses.”
The floating offshore wind research array is proposed to include 10-12 turbines on semi-submersible floating concrete platforms pioneered by the University of Maine. As the first project of its kind in the United States, the research array will foster cutting-edge research into how floating offshore wind interacts with the marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and more.
For more than a decade, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composite Center has designed and developed 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.
"We are excited to see this technology and innovation — a decade in the making with the leadership of the state's R1 research university — be able to move forward to the next level," 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. "We appreciate the cutting-edge innovation of UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, led by Habib Dagher, and all leadership and vision in Maine working to make offshore wind and economic development possible to improve the lives of Maine people."
The State applied for the research lease in October 2021, following months of public and stakeholder outreach, research, and data analysis to identify a responsible site in the Gulf of Maine with minimal effects on fishing, wildlife, and navigation. As part of this application, BOEM first solicited competitive interest in the proposed lease location prior to conducting further environmental reviews, site assessment and lease negotiations.
Proposed at 15.2 square miles, the research site identified by the State represents approximately .04 percent of the 36,000-square-mile Gulf of Maine. 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.
As an unprecedented research opportunity to improve understanding of the potential benefits and impacts of floating 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 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 co-exist with other users of 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 commercial scale floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine and beyond.
Earlier this month, BOEM released its draft area for potential commercial offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Maine and announced a series of public meetings on its planning process leading up to its proposed sale of commercial offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Maine in 2024, including a meeting in Portland on Thursday, January 19.
In advance of this leasing action by BOEM, Governor Janet Mills has pressed the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees BOEM, to involve Maine fishermen in Federal plans for leasing in the Gulf of Maine for commercial offshore wind. The Mills Administration continues to encourage BOEM to increase its engagement with Maine stakeholders and the public as its leasing plans for the Gulf of Maine progress.
Maine is a member of BOEM’s Gulf of Maine Task Force, along with New Hampshire and Massachusetts, through which the State will continue to participate and advocate for the State’s interests in BOEM’s plans for commercial leasing.
In the coming weeks, the Governor’s Energy Office expects to release the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, a comprehensive plan for offshore wind in Maine developed by leading economic, environmental, fisheries, and community representatives over the past 18 months. For more about the Roadmap, please visit maineoffshorewind.org.