FAQs about Gulf of Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array
About the Project
What are the benefits to Maine hosting the research array?
The State believes Maine can be a leader in advancing floating offshore wind in the U.S., which will deliver both economic and environmental benefits if developed responsibly. The demand for offshore wind in the U.S. and globally is on the rise and floating technology will be necessary to meet that demand. If successful, UMaine’s floating technology will create new market opportunities for Maine in a growth industry.
Given that this is a new homegrown technology beneficial to the State, the research array will allow Maine to conduct further research and answer critical questions about floating platforms – from fishing to environmental impacts - prior to potential commercial developments. The research array will generate clean energy to aid Maine in achieving our renewable energy requirements and will help position Maine well to serve a global market.
Why is research on floating offshore wind technology necessary and beneficial to Maine?
According to the 2020 Carbon Trust Floating Wind Joint Industry Project Report, there are no commercial scale (>200 MW) deployments of floating offshore wind in the world, and only a handful of pilot projects, including the planned single turbine New England Aqua Ventus Project off Monhegan using UMaine’s floating technology. Only 0.3% of all installed offshore wind in the world (82MW) currently use floating technology.
The research array will be one of the first pre-commercial scale (50-200MW) floating offshore wind projects in the world and will highlight Maine’s capability and potential. Compared with other floating technologies now being used globally, the UMaine technology has a high readiness level and is in a good position to create market opportunities around the world.
The UMaine semi-submersible foundation differs from other floating technologies and has the potential to benefit Maine for the following reasons:
- It is designed to take advantage of the existing manufacturing and construction industry in Maine. It utilizes concrete rather than steel, making it possible to manufacture the hull locally. Unlike the other floating technologies, the UMaine floating technology does not rely on technologies developed and serviced by the oil and gas industry. Given that the state of Maine and many other regions of the world do not possess a mature oil and gas industry, this technology has the potential to be create economic opportunities in Maine and position Maine well to serve diverse global markets.
- The UMaine technology can be assembled on shore using the capabilities of Maine’s existing maritime heritage and workforce. Unlike other floating technologies that require assembly and installation at sea in challenging conditions, the UMaine semi-submersible foundation can be assembled with turbines on and near shore and then towed to site using barges and vessels made in Maine. This technology is not reliant upon the development of new, large, purpose-built vessels that currently do not exist in the U.S.
To support this homegrown technology that has benefits to the State, the research array will allow Maine to conduct further research on its use and address critical questions – such as on fishing and environmental impacts - prior to potential commercial development. The research array will also generate renewable energy to aid Maine in achieving our clean energy requirements and will help position Maine well to serve a global market.
Will there be analysis done on permanent Maine-based jobs created by this project?
Maine’s Offshore Wind Initiative is centered on the responsible development of offshore wind in Maine, which includes building a Maine-based industry that can create good paying jobs.
An element of the initiative, the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, will create an economic development plan for offshore wind in Maine. This process will include a comprehensive supply chain analysis, as well as an analysis of the economic benefits to local communities.
In the research framework developed for the research array also will include research of potential employment impacts as well as socioeconomic impacts. Examples of direct employment opportunities with the research array project include:
- Planning, engineering, permitting of the research array (project specific for 3-4 years, turning into permanent jobs as the industry develops in Maine)
- Construction of the research array (3+ years of jobs per project)
- Long-term operations and maintenance of the research array (permanent jobs)
Should the industry develop in the Northeast as expected, the construction jobs for the research array will serve as the training ground so that those jobs can turn into long-term jobs building successive projects – either in the Gulf of Maine or elsewhere in the Northeast.
Has there been a target set for the maximum production you are looking for in the research area and the turbine sizes?
In 2021, Governor Mills signed LD 336, which passed with bipartisan support and authorized the Public Utilities Commission to order a negotiation of up to 144 MW for the research array. The research array project is limited to 12 turbines or fewer, the specific number and turbine will be determined at a later stage of the project development, and the specific size will be identified at the lease stage, but are expected to be between 10-15 MW per turbine. The offshore wind industry technology is advancing rapidly and we will evaluate the market at the appropriate point.
Will US-flagged vessels be used for this project?
Floating offshore wind largely eliminates the need for the large foreign offshore installation vessels that are used to build projects with fixed-bottom turbines, or jackets, where virtually all the construction is offshore.
Floating foundations are assembled at quayside instead of at sea. Once assembled, U.S.-flagged tugboats are all that is required to move the foundations/turbines to the project site. Ancillary vessels used to install the mooring lines and anchors also will likely be U.S.-flagged. Maintenance vessels will also be U.S.-flagged.
Maine intends to use US-flagged vessels to the maximum extent possible. Some necessary vessels are potentially not U.S.-flagged, such as those that would deliver the turbines, likely from their European manufacturers, and those that deliver and install the cables. The cable installation vessels are highly customized and there are few U.S.-flagged vessels that do this work. Over the coming years, as more projects are installed in the U.S. it is possible that more domestic vessels will become available. Under the Roadmap, the state will look into issues and opportunities relating to shipping for the long-term planning of offshore wind in Maine.
Who are the State’s partners to develop this project?
The State intends to partner with New England Aqua Ventus -- a joint venture of Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation, and RWE Renewables, one of the world’s largest offshore wind companies – to develop the research array.
The State intends to utilize UMaine’s floating platform technology in the research array to provide an important testing ground for Maine’s home-grown technology.
In 2021, Governor Mills signed LD 1619, which passed with bipartisan support and created a research consortium to oversee the research strategy and priorities of the research array.
How much will the project cost?
The total cost of the project will vary depending on the final approved research array. Costs are dependent on the number of turbines, distance from shore, water depth, and several other factors.
In 2021, the Governor signed bipartisan legislation, LD 336, which authorizes the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to negotiate a power purchase agreement for up to 144 MW from the research array at the lowest appropriate cost to ratepayers. Included in the legislation is authorization for the PUC to utilize external financing support through an entity such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, regarding appropriate pricing of the rapidly advancing floating offshore wind technology.
New England Aqua Ventus will be responsible for developing, financing, and operating the research array. The State is leading efforts related to siting of the array and obtaining the lease; the State, through the research consortium, will play a leadership role in the research related to the research array.
Will these structures be visible from shore?
The preferred site for the research array is located approximately 29 miles from the nearest mainland point. The State established this distance informed by a number of factors, including limiting visual impacts. The permitting process for the array will require a visual impact assessment, which will be shared for public comment.
Is the UMaine project near Monhegan part of this research array?
The Monhegan project is a separate and independent project on a different timeline from this proposed research array. It is a private project by New England Aqua Ventus (NEAV) working with the University of Maine (UMaine) and partially funded by the United States Department of Energy. The project involves a single floating platform. While it is in a state-designated test site, the state has no direct involvement in the Monhegan project other than in its regulatory function addressing compliance and permitting.
The Monhegan project must undergo completely different regulatory reviews at the local, State and federal levels. This NEAV/UMaine collaboration is poised to be the first floating offshore wind turbine in the U.Swhen deployed, representing an important forward step for floating offshore wind technology.
The research array is a State-led initiative with very different regulatory process and timeline. Additionally, the turbines would be deployed in federal waters,. While the State plans to utilize the skills and experience of NEAV to help develop the array project if approved, the research array is a completely different initiative needed to research how multiple floating turbines can best interact and co-exist in the federal waters of the Gulf of Maine, where there is a nationally significant, and currently untapped, wind resource.
How does the research array complement the offshore wind roadmap effort?
The research array and Roadmap are necessary and complementary elements of the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative, alongside analyses of Maine’s port infrastructure, regional collaboration through the federal Gulf of Maine Task Force, and the formation of strategic public-private partnerships to support responsible offshore wind development.
The more broadly focused roadmap includes cross-sector working groups with an over-arching steering committee with targeted analysis of economic potential, supply chain growth and workforce development and training for Maine.
The discussions about the research array will inform the broader conversation and statewide focus of the roadmap effort. The submission of an application for a lease to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will start a multi-year process to fully vet the design of the project. After submission of the research array application, work will continue to fill data gaps and hone the research plan and its implementation..
Location Priorities and Considerations
Where will this project be located?
After conducting extensive analysis and stakeholder engagement, and in consultation with other state and federal agencies, GEO identified a preferred location for the purposes of its application to BOEM. For more information on the siting process, please click here.
What criteria for siting have already been decided?
This State identified the following criteria to inform the siting process (in no particular order):
- Near potential high voltage electric grid connection sites in Wiscasset and Yarmouth. (Cabling and interconnection decision will be at a later point in the planning process.)
- At least 20 miles from shoreline to reduce inshore fishing conflicts and visual impacts
- Not more than 40 miles from shoreline due to economic considerations given the small scale of this project
- Minimum depth of 150 feet (no max depth limitations within this area); minimum water depth is for technical considerations
- Mud/gravel bottom preferred for anchoring
- Minimize conflict with known fishing grounds
- Avoid highly trafficked areas (shipping traffic/navigation lanes)
How much does interconnection drive the siting decision?
The interconnection location is an important driver in siting the research array. The research array needs to be in relative proximity to high voltage transmission and areas of greatest energy consumption. There are a limited number of high voltage interconnection points in Yarmouth and Wiscasset.
Has a location been identified for the shore-based service centers and port facilities?
No specific decisions have been made about onshore locations associated with the research array. The State is finalizing a study on port facilities, which will inform future opportunities for the research array. Eventually it is anticipated that the research array will require two types of infrastructure: (1) a port suitable for fabrication, assembly and launch and (2) an operations and maintenance center. The operations and maintenance center will likely be able to use an existing port and will be centered on upgrading an existing facility that will be relatively near the final project site.
How were stakeholders involved in determining a site?
Since November 2020, the State, through GEO and other state agencies, including DMR, IFW, and DOT, has conducted extensive stakeholder outreach and received input from hundreds of individuals through various venues, including more than a dozen public meetings, informational webinars, one-on-one meetings and more. That input included expression of views in opposition to the project, in support of the project, questions about it, and data to support the state’s final application to BOEM.
The State sought to identify a site for the research array with minimal negative effects on current ocean users and is committed to working with stakeholders to increase our understanding of the activities and available data. The federal government will conduct a separate review process on Maine’s lease application, which GEO will post on its website and notify stakeholders on future opportunities for comment and engagement through that process. For more information, see GEO’s website.
How much data is needed to identify a site for the research array?
BOEM’s leasing regulations do not have specific data requirements for selecting a site. However, BOEM consults with other resource agencies, which will need to make their own determination about impacts and whether the lease meets their regulatory requirements. It’s important to note, too, that the data available for federal waters varies, given the type of survey work that has been done and variability of data available.
This is why the State is engaging others to gather as much information as we can regarding the marine species and wildlife who use or frequent the area, the existing vessel and fishing activity, and undersea information such as substrate and bathymetry. Even after a lease is issued, there will be additional monitoring work done prior to construction, in order to increase understanding and knowledge of the site prior to the research array.
What kind of research will be done in the site?
Through the stakeholder engagement and working with state agencies and other scientific experts, the state developed a research framework for purposes of the application to BOEM, which outlines key areas of potential research at the research array The goal of the research is to optimize the co-existence of floating offshore wind with the human and ecological environment with the following specific objectives:
- Reduce conflicts with existing ocean uses, with emphasis on fisheries;
- Support education, workforce and supply chain development;
- Maintain coastal community culture and heritage while creating socioeconomic opportunities;
- Monitor ecosystem change at the Research Array and inform future projects by providing recommendations for socially and environmentally responsible development; and
- Advance floating wind technology and reduce the levelized cost of offshore wind energy.
As called for in LD 1619 ,which passed with bipartisan support, the State of Maine will launch a Research Consortium to guide the research process, including to develop research priorities, provide transparent open-source results, and build on research priorities of other regional and global efforts.
Development and implementation of research efforts will focus on working in close collaboration with the fishing industry and draw upon the wealth of expertise in the Gulf of Maine (scientists, vessels, fishermen, labor, etc.).
Is there funding in hand that has been raised for the research array effort?
Yes. Recognizing the importance of a data-based approach, with bipartisan support, the Legislature included $1 million in a one-time allocation to stand up the research consortium, as well as an additional $2 million annually over two years to establish fisheries, offshore wind, and northern right whale research and monitoring capabilities in the Gulf of Maine. The State intends to work with a broad array of research institutions, federal agencies, and as well as other stakeholders, including the fishing industry to design, fund, and execute a robust research program.
What is the difference between the research that can be done with Monhegan vs. the research array?
The single-turbine Monhegan project aims to prove that University of Maine technology is feasible, cost-effective and can be built in Maine by Maine contractors and Maine labor. By contrast, the research array will conduct the necessary research to analyze how actual wind arrays can best co-exist with traditional ocean users so that future commercial scale wind farms can be more responsibly developed. The research array will help inform areas that need further research such as distance necessary between turbines to accommodate different types of fishing gear, how whales interact with wind farms, how different types of mooring lines can mitigate impacts on fisheries, how cables can arranged to reduce their presence in the water column and be buried to allow fishing, the interaction between wind farms and fishing gear in storms, how wind farms can act as a safe harbor, how cables can be installed without creating fisheries restrictions, etc.
Are you working with Gulf of Maine scientists on this project?
Yes. The State is working with leading marine scientists from Maine and the New England region on siting and research priorities. Over the long term, the State and partners will establish a research consortium to coordinate research activities and maximize our understanding about the data and information collected through the research array.
Will you be co-locating aquaculture at this project?
The state is not currently planning to co-locate aquaculture on the research array site. Aquaculture in the research array would require separate federal permitting and compatibility with the project’s research objectives, including assessment of how floating offshore wind impacts wildlife and marine resources as well as fishing activity. Additionally, since researching the impacts of floating offshore wind is the priority for this project, there are concerns that additional variables could raise challenges.
If, at some future time, there was interest in co-locating aquaculture facilities, the state would develop a process to hear from stakeholders about the concept and explore the potential impacts on the site, research, and permitting.
Will you co-locate hydrogen production with the research array?
The state is not currently planning to co-locate hydrogen production with the research array site. Hydrogen production in the research array would require separate federal permitting and compatibility with the project’s research objectives, including assessment of how floating offshore wind impacts wildlife and marine resources as well as fishing activity. Additionally, since researching floating offshore wind is the priority for this project, there are concerns that additional variables could raise challenges.
If, at some future time, there was interest in hydrogen production, the state would develop a process to hear from stakeholders about the concept and explore the potential impacts on the site, research, and permitting.
Will there by research into the anchoring cables in order to minimize fishing exclusion zones around each turbine? Can one try different anchoring arrangements as part of research?
Yes. This is one of the most important research priorities of the research array. Our goal is to figure out how floating offshore wind projects can allow as much leeway for fishing as possible.
What is the timeline for approval of the project?
While there are many factors at play, including multiple permitting steps, it is expected that the soonest something could appear in the water is approximately five years.
What is driving the timeline for the application to BOEM?
In order to stay ahead of commercial-scale leasing and approval process, the research array needs to proceed at pace, otherwise the federal BOEM process, lease issuance, and project development will proceed without the benefit of the planned research.
The first step in the process is applying for a research lease through BOEM, which requires identification of proposed site for the research array. After the application is filed, there are further permitting and review steps. This extensive process will take several years before the research array is operational. The State wants to be equipped with data on how floating offshore wind may impact our natural resources and economy, and best management practices on working with the fishing industry, so it is in a far better place to inform the commercial permitting process at the federal level.
Federal Leasing and Permitting
Who approves the research lease application and what is the process?
Under federal regulations, only a State or federal agency has authority to hold a federal offshore energy research lease. Since the research array is proposed in federal waters, the leasing decision will be made by BOEM in the U.S. Department of the Interior, which has authority to issue leases for renewable energy activities in federal waters beyond the three-mile limit of State waters.
The application is the initial step in the federal review process. BOEM will r seek comment on the application, conduct the appropriate review, and decide on the lease. The State’s application for a research lease is the first of many steps prior to construction of a research array; the federal process is a separate process from Maine’s initial application phase. The State will need to go through a review process with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) of its initial lease application, as well as its research activities plan, which will include a National Environmental Policy Act review. Once the federal lease is issued, there are several permits required prior to any construction. View a detailed review of the BOEM process.
Is the goal of the research array to fast-track development in the Gulf of Maine?
No. The State wants to “right track” offshore wind in a way that it is developed in a responsible and fully informed manner with the input of Maine stakeholders, especially our traditional fishing industry. Given significant interest in commercial development of offshore renewable energy in the Gulf of Maine and in waters to our south, the alternative to leading with the State-developed research array is to react to proposals for large commercial development in federal waters without sufficient information on the how floating technology may impact to fishing industry, coastal communities and marine environment. While Maine cannot control the federal process, there is a limited window of time to learn something from the process of developing the research array.
What information is included in an application to BOEM?
The application primarily consists of an overview of the project, the research themes, data on siting location, and a specific area identified for the requested lease. Additional details such as exact layout, a final interconnection point, and a research plan will be developed after a lease is approved and will be informed by site-specific surveys and data collection.
Can you explain how BOEM differentiates between a commercial wind lease and a research lease?
BOEM has a separate regulatory process for research leases and commercial projects. For research leases, only state or federal agencies are able to apply for the leases and research projects must support advancements in renewable energy. The site assessment work in the leased area, and construction and operations planning and permitting will be held to the same type of performance standards as a commercial projects.
How does this project differ from a commercial offshore wind project?
The array is a research array for a number of reasons, including its relatively small size – it’s less than 7% of the size of commercial scale leases (10,000 acres vs more than 150,000 acres on average off the coast of Massachusetts). The express purpose of the project is research - the array will be intentionally sited, designed and operated with the primary intent of research, which makes it much different from commercial projects. In addition to research into effects on fisheries and the marine environment, the array will also research how the floating technology operates to generate and transmit energy, which is why it will be connected to the grid. Lastly, the project will provide open-source data to help inform future offshore wind projects.
How does the BOEM process prevent commercial applications from coming forward for a full scale wind farm in the GOM once this research array application is submitted?
The research array does not prevent commercial applications from being submitted as an unsolicited proposal. This is formally outside the purview of the State. However, the State’s intent is to advance and move the research array for learning first and foremost before the advancements of any large-scale project development and will take whatever measures it can to ensure that this happens in this sequence.
At the same time, Maine will continue to work with the BOEM-created Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. Competitive interest could result in unsolicited bids not moving forward outside of the Task Force commercial leasing process, and in recent leasing processes in Hawaii and California, BOEM did not move forward with unsolicited leases and instead are evaluating lease options through the Task Force process.
While the federal government makes decisions on offshore wind activities in federal waters, the State has a voice through the federal regulatory process associated with leasing, through the Task Force process, through its Coastal Zone program for consistency, and for any transmission that may come ashore through state waters. With data from the research array to support the state’s arguments and interests, we will be better positioned to comment on federal actions during the leasing and permitting processes.
When a commercial enterprise wants to come in for a federal application, does Maine have anything to do with it?
Maine has limited control over the pace and scale of offshore wind development in federal waters. The leasing process for offshore wind siting in federal waters (3-200 miles from shore) is regulated by BOEM. However, BOEM consults with neighboring states and is mindful of state policies and goals policies – if clearly articulated. The purpose of the research array is to use science to influence and clearly articulate policy that preserves Maine’s heritage while also developing this new industry.
Maine is part of a Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force for BOEM, which also provides a forum for Maine to articulate its ocean policy. This Task Force does not have decision-making authority, but its members provide information and recommendations on how and where offshore wind development should occur in the Gulf of Maine. To date, the Task Force has had one meeting. Once the commercial leasing process begins, it can take up to seven or more years to complete.
While the federal government makes decisions on offshore wind activities in federal waters, the State has a voice both through the federal regulatory process associated with leasing as well as through the Task Force process. With data from the research array to support the State’s arguments and interests, it will be better positioned to comment on federal actions during the leasing and permitting processes.
How is a research array different from the Gulf of Maine Task Force process with BOEM?
At the request of New Hampshire, BOEM created the Gulf of Maine Task Force to aid regional coordination of renewable energy activities in federal waters. Typically, a Task Force’s primary focus helping the U.S. Department of the Interior and BOEM decide the identification and leasing of potential commercial offshore Wind Energy Areas.
The State remains committed to the regional partnership and will work with the BOEM Gulf of Maine Task Force on the research array, the findings from which should help inform better siting decisions that protect existing users of the ocean, particularly fisheries. For more on BOEM’s commercial leasing process, see A Citizen’s Guide to BOEM’s Renewable Energy Process (PDF).
Will future commercial projects be located at the same site as the research array?
The future decision on where to site the research array does not predetermine commercial lease siting decisions going forward; the federal government will go through a separate process to identify specific commercial lease areas. Part of the siting considerations for the research array are to better understand the impacts of a multi-turbine offshore wind projects in an area that is illustrative of potential locations for commercial projects so there is an increased, science-based understanding of how offshore wind can co-exist with existing users. The project will not be designed to accommodate future projects at the site, though this work will inform future opportunities.
What are the decommissioning requirements?
Per federal requirements, it the time of lease issuance, the state and/or developer will be required to provide $300,000 in financial assurance via a bond or other instrument. Additional decommissioning financial assurance will be required before approving activities in the lease area, including site assessment or project development. BOEM will determine the decommissioning financial assurance required based on anticipated decommissioning costs.
How is the Magnuson-Stevens Act applicable to this project?
Under existing law, federal offshore wind energy projects must obtain a lease through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is part of the Department of Interior. Through the federal leasing process, BOEM will consult with several federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA/NMFS) regarding any potential impacts to marine endangered species, marine mammals, fisheries and habitat. NOAA’s authority in this consultative role stems from the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as well as the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. DMR is also well-versed with the goals of these federal authorities. The State is working to ensure potential impacts to fishery resources and protected species are given full consideration throughout the application’s development.
What baseline studies are required for the regulatory requirements? What baseline studies will be done beyond those requirements?
The exact baseline studies, for the purposes of permitting, will be determined by the BOEM as part of the permitting process. A priority of the project will be to conduct baseline studies, both in term of species and potentially in terms of time, beyond those required by BOEM. This will ensure the greatest amount of knowledge about the ocean environment is available before and after the research array is operating. Determining the baseline studies will take time and will include stakeholder input.
What permits are required beyond the lease? For instance, will it need to get an incidental take permit or incidental harassment assessment?
The project will require numerous permits and approvals prior to construction. (See FAQ on research lease application process). Once the lease is issued, the project needs to obtain an approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, first to commence studies of the site (Whales, birds, geology, wind, etc.). That site specific information will be used to develop and construction and operations plan, which will be submitted to BOEM for approval. The federal government will conduct an additional National Environmental Protection Act review, including public comment, and conduct extensive consultations with other agencies, including incidental take authorization (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation prior to approving the construction and operations plan. The permitting process is expected to take a few years and will include interaction with researchers and the general public through official public comment opportunities and additional stakeholder outreach.
Ecological and Marine Life/Wildlife Impacts
How much will the developer invest in baseline assessment work, and how much will invest in the ongoing research conducted on the research array?
The developer will pay for site assessment work necessary to obtain permits and engineer the project. The information collected will include all the site specific observations of fisheries, marine mammals, birds, bats, sea-bed conditions, cable route surveys, endangered species, wind resource measurement, met-ocean measurement, etc. The developer will pay for all the necessary baseline work, permitting, design, construction and operations of the project. Depending on the final research plan, there may be additional baseline work completed beyond that of a traditional commercial project. It is expected that tens of millions of dollars will be invested to get the project fully permitted and designed and ready for construction. Exactly which portions of research will be paid for by the developer versus other sources of funding will be decided over the next few years as the project configuration emerges and the types of research are finalized. Once the project is operational, the state will continue to monitor and oversee aspects of the project, which will be operated to help support research and development in addition to supplying clean energy to the Maine electric grid.
Do we know what are the effects of high voltage cables and the associated electromagnetic field are on lobsters? What about sharks or other elasmobranchs?
This project will have relatively low voltage cable, similar to the one that connects the mainland to Vinalhaven and North Haven. Some research has already been done on higher voltage cables, and there is peer-reviewed literature available, with links to two summaries of these resources below. It will be difficult to test these impacts in situ here given the voltage of this project, so the State is looking at research opportunities in the Southern New England region to help inform our understanding of potential impacts from the higher voltage cables associated with commercial scale projects. Existing cables in Maine and the region may provide an opportunity to study these impacts before construction of the research array.
BOEM's Electromagnetic Fields from Offshore Wind Facilities
Electromagnetic Fields Short Science Summary (Tethys Knowledge Base)
To what extent do marine mammal and bird species could play a role in site selection – habitats and migration?
The State will work to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to both habitat and marine life. The State, in coordination with federal partners, will be evaluating available data for marine mammals, fish, birds, and other wildlife as we work through the siting process, and will use this information to inform our decision, along with impacts to human uses. Relatively little is known about far offshore habitats and migration – this is one of the purposes of the research array, to conduct both the baseline research and the operational research to evaluate how full-scale wind farms can work in the ocean environment
What are the effects on birds/bats/butterflies?
The Gulf of Maine hosts a variety of wildlife species, including over 300 species of seabirds, sea ducks, migrating songbirds, shorebirds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies. We do not have specific studies detailing the impacts of offshore wind projects on these species in the Gulf of Maine. However, studies from onshore wind projects in Maine and offshore wind projects to our south (such as Block Island in Rhode Island) and in Europe have identified a range of potential wildlife effects, including avoidance behaviors, collisions, and attraction to project sites. While there is population information from aerial and breeding surveys for some species and habitats (such as nesting seabird colonies within certain areas of the Gulf of Maine), we do not have comprehensive information for all species and locations in the Gulf of Maine. Through pre-permitting baseline studies and through operation of the research array, valuable information on the prevalence and patterns of species can be studied, with the goal of both avoiding and mitigating impacts in the array as well in any future, larger-scale projects in the Gulf of Maine.
If we find out there are adverse impacts to the fishing industry from this research array, how will this project help us in the future?
If the State determines that there is an impact, this information would be used to develop and directly inform future strategies to avoid that impact. For example, if there is an impact on lobster migration from an electromagnetic fields, the State would want to study whether burying the cable deeper would mitigate or avoid that impact for future development projects. Another example may include displacement of one fishery and/or attraction of other fishing effort to the research area. The State will need to understand these dynamics as this could directly impact future array configuration, spacing or placement. Other examples include potentially optimizing distances between turbines, the physical arrangement of mooring lines and anchors to accommodate more fishing and different gear types.
This is especially important when there are proposals for commercial scale projects in federal waters, where the State will not have significant decision-making authority. Our opportunity to weigh in on those projects will be through a public comment process, and therefore having data to support our points and concerns will help BOEM use those comments more effectively. For example, if we know there will be an adverse impact to some aspect of the lobster resource, and we have information about how to mitigate it, we can ask for those mitigation measures to be included for all future projects permitted in the Gulf of Maine.
Are there any details on the types of ecological research that you can discuss?
Floating platforms have many marked differences with fixed arrays that will impact the types of questions that may be addressed. First, floating technology introduces new structures in deep water that may have relatively less baseline information than more nearshore arrays. Direct impact to the seabed floor will be different through anchor design, cable burial and inter-array cabling. The floating technology introduces a platform that may impact fish aggregation, water column dynamics, fouling communities and the depositional environment on the seabed. The configuration of the structures allows opportunity to look at scalable questions for larger future arrays. For example, is there a restructuring of the physical and biological environment within the array based on different spacing configurations.
Will the siting of this project avoid Essential Fish Habitat and other designated areas?
The State is seeking to avoid adverse impact on habitat, species and human uses, and that will certainly include evaluation of potential impacts existing habitat or species protection areas as part of our overall siting process. In addition, the federal government, through its leasing process, will certainly be evaluating impacts related to these areas.
Will the method of dredging for the cable affect fishing and how will the State be able to document impacts with no baseline data?
The goal is to avoid any dredging by utilizing a burial technology called jet plowing. It is a process that uses a stream of high-pressure water to temporarily fluidize sediment and simultaneously lay the cable. The fluidized sediment settles back down within minutes, leaving only a shallow 3-4-5’ wide temporary indentation in the seabed (where the width depends on sea-floor composition). The technology is widely used in laying offshore cables around the world including in Maine waters. This process therefore only displaces fishing during the cable laying itself (where the cable lay vessel can cover several miles per day, depending on soil types). Fishing can resume shortly thereafter, though we would expect localized impacts to fauna until that community has filled back in. No decisions have yet been made with regard to cable details, route or burial methods. As suggested, there will be baseline data gathered, routing optimized and burial methods (and depth) finalized deep into the permitting process over the next few years.
Is there research into whether marine mammals avoid the chains and cables that anchor the floating wind platform? Or, are strategies available to avoid collisions and entanglement?
Minimizing harm to marine mammals is a priority of this project. Given their relatively large size, the chain and cable envisioned for use in this project are not expected to pose a collision or entanglement risk to marine mammals. During the site selection process, the State evaluated areas of higher marine mammal presence and selected a site that showed lower evidence of presence.
During the research, engineering and permitting process for the project, we will also fully evaluate whether a potential secondary risk to marine mammals may exist from fishing gear that could become entangled in the chains or cables. As part of our agreement, the state will require the developer to have a mitigation plan that could include detection of gear entanglement and its prompt removal.
Where can we learn more about the floating technology?
The State and will be posting links to information sources that will provide more information on floating technology.
In early 2021, the State will be hosting a webinar to provide an overview of floating technology and will make the recording available on the GEO website.
Details about the University of Maine’s floating VolturnUS technology can be found on its website. Essentially, the concrete semi-submersible hull structure operates as a platform and holds up the turbine. The platform is attached to the seabed with 3-4 mooring lines, with large steel chain links that are connected to drag embedded anchors. The chains hang down from the foundation to the sea bottom, and then lay along the seabed. Many other aspects of the configuration are flexible, and may be adjusted if it makes navigation or fishing activity more possible.
How much space does the turbine take up, how are they connected? Are there estimates on the footprint of the floating turbines?
Based on the current technology plans, the floating foundation for each turbine is about 380 feet in diameter – but can vary depending on the final turbine size. The mooring lines then extend out from the foundation in the water column roughly another 150-200 feet depending on water depth and the type of mooring line used. Together this means the footprint is 700 to 800 feet in diameter. Mooring lines will lay on the seabed outside of this circle and will only pull up off the sea bed in extreme wind and wave conditions. Exact details of mooring and anchor systems will be worked out only after a site is designated, turbines selected, seabed bottom conditions are identified, and the engineering teams can then start working through the options. One element of the research is to determine how to best limit the footprint, and also potentially how to arrange anchor and mooring systems so that fisheries can better co-exist.
What storms can the turbines withstand?
The project will be designed to withstand a 500-year storm.
Will the mooring lines be made of synthetic materials? If so, has anyone considered the impacts to marine life from plastics?
Synthetic mooring lines are under consideration, but nothing has been decided at this point in the project. Generally, plastics degrade over time; the amount of degradation and associated risks will be assessed prior to determining the final mooring line material to be used. As part of the operations and maintenance of the project, equipment will be monitored for degradation and replaced if needed.
What will the anchoring lines be made of and do different materials matter for entanglement, scraping, or scarring and other impact risks?
The specific mooring line materials have yet been identified. Options that consider technical feasibility and potential impact on other ocean uses will be developed as part of the engineering and permitting phase of the project.
How much will the floating turbine platforms move? Is the amount of movement of the array/mooring system directly dependent on depth?
The floating turbines move off center a few tens of meters during high wind events. The exact amount off center depends on water depth. This slides offers an indictive drawing (PDF).
Cable and Interconnection
Will the transmission cable be buried? Will the inter-array cables between turbines be buried? What will be the process for determining cable route?
The transmission cable would be buried to the greatest extent possible. The route will be determined by conducting surveys of the ocean bottom and using sub-bottom profiling, to help understand where there are soft sediments and where there might be rock and working with stakeholders before determining a final route. The goal is to find a route that can transit soft sediments as much as possible, allowing the cable to be buried to its target depth of 6 feet using a device called a jet plow (a high pressure water stream). This same process will be utilized for both the transmission cable and the cables between turbines. Where the cable cannot be buried, it would be “mattressed” by concrete or other structures to hold it down and minimize potential for it to be caught in mobile gear. Working with fishermen and stakeholders will be part of the process in determining an appropriate cable route.
Who owns the cable?
All cables are considered part of the project when it is built.
What will the transmission capacity of the cable and connection infrastructure support in terms of possible additional turbines? Once this cable is in place, would it be a draw for additional development in the same area where this project could be sited?
The transmission cable will have the capacity to transport power only from the turbines included in this project. It will not be “overbuilt” to accommodate future additional turbines.
Has the interconnection site been determined?
The interconnection site has not been determined. Two primary locations for interconnection have been identified by the state in Wiscasset) and Yarmouth substations based on their transmission capacity. The decision where to interconnect has not been finalized and will l not be determined until substantially later in the planning process of the project after a full evaluation of the environmental and local community impacts, technical viability and cost.
Has the developer filed applications with ISO-NE for the potential interconnection points?
Interconnection applications have not been filed and will only be filed when a project site is defined, a project size is defined, turbines are selected, and a BOEM lease is issued. It is not anticipated that an interconnection application will be filed for a year or more. The ISO-NE process is then rather lengthy, likely taking a couple of years before an interconnection agreement is approved.
Do these turbines require much maintenance?
Offshore wind turbines are built to avoid constant large-scale maintenance given the challenges of access. Like any energy project, they require continuous observation to watch temperatures, alarms, and trips. It is anticipated that there will be almost daily trips to the wind farm to manage routine operations. Annually there will be a larger scale preventative maintenance deployment where technicians tune everything up over a period of about a week in preparation for the winter months to avoid major maintenance in the winter when access is even more challenging. In addition, there are occasionally relatively large scale maintenance events, some of which could even potentially require at turbine be transported back to port for a heavy lift. Maine hopes to become a hub for this sort of maintenance creating long-term jobs.
What is the anticipated voltage of the cables in the array, and from the array to shore?
The cables are anticipated to be 66KV, which is industry standard. These will be for AC (Alternating Current) technology.
Will consideration be given for time of year of cable laying and surveys?
Yes, the developer will aim to do on-the-water surveys and cable laying during periods with less fishing activity. The developer will work with the fishing industry and the DMR to determine the best timing for any surveys before they are scheduled. DMR will work on improvements to communications and outreach to the fishing industry based on recent lessons learned.
Fishing and Navigation
Will navigation and/or fishing activities be permitted within the footprint of an OSW farm and/or this array?
One of the primary research opportunities with this project is to explore whether fishing can continue within the floating turbines. A limited restricted area may need to be established around each turbine. Fishing activity within the array may be accommodated by adjusting the distance between turbines, the configuration or the installation of the array. Fishermen’s input will help to address this question through the development of the project. Array configuration may not be compatible with existing gear types, or local set backs may displace fishing effort to other areas. Alternatively, the array may aggregate some species attracting affiliated commercial and recreational fisheries. The State recognizes that there will be independent judgment of mariners about the safety of operating their vessels and/or gear safely within the array, given the weather and conditions, as well as the mooring systems, inter-array cables and interconnection cable.
Where is the proposed research array site in relation to the Lobster Management Area 1 Restricted Area?
The proposed research array site is 6 statute miles from the LMA 1 Restricted Area at its closest point, which is the southeastern corner of the proposed research array site. The LMA 1 Restricted Area is with 967 square miles, while the proposed research array site is 16 square miles. The proposed research array site is in approximately 90 fathoms of water in an area of mud bottom with minimal relief. Based on DMR’s assessment work done during the siting process, the area has been used seasonally by the lobster fishery, and has been used more frequently by the mobile groundfish fleet. The State recognizes that displaced effort from the LMA 1 Restricted Area may move into the proposed research array site, and notes that a key objective of the research array is to explore whether fishing gear of various types will be able to operate within the array, and the State does not intend to exclude fishing activity from the array site.
How will Maine lobstermen, groundfish fishermen, etc. be protected from displacement/impacts?
First and foremost, the State seeks to avoid displacement, or if that is not possible, to minimize it. It is the State’s intent to work directly with the fishing industry to evaluate available data that shows fishing activity, but we know that most of this data is either incomplete (limited in years) or does not include critical fisheries (lobster and tuna). Furthermore, fishing is very dynamic, and areas that have been important historically or may be in the future may not be reflected in the data for areas with high current use. The State hopes the industry will engage directly with GEO and DMR to help identify the areas that will have the least impact on their fishing activity.
While fishing is clearly tricky around an installation like this, is it really an “either/or” question around fishing? Are there design innovations or technique changes that can be explored to satisfy both of those stakeholder groups?
The State is seeking to identify ways to mitigate impacts on fishing activity, and would like to include research to test whether fishing can continue to occur within the research array. There are a number of questions around the structures, configuration and siting of the research array that will affect whether and to what extent fishing by various gear types might be able to continue within the array. For example, this research and development work might include new designs for mooring and anchor systems, inter-array cabling, or adjustment of distance between turbines. Weather, sea conditions, and mariners’ judgment will also be important factors in determining whether fishing operations can be conducted safely within the research array.
Will there be opportunities for fishermen to participate in collaborative research around this project?
Absolutely. Maine DMR has long history of working with fishermen through cooperative research and will continue to do so in this context. One of the top priorities with this project is to better understand how it will impact fishing and marine resources, so it will be imperative to have the involvement of the industry in developing and executing those research questions. The State anticipates standing up a research consortium, including state and federal agencies, interested stakeholders, research and other non-governmental organizations. The research consortium will be a forum to define the research plan and to work together to implement and execute the plan.
The Department of Interior issued guidance that a wind farm cannot have “unreasonable” impact on the fishing industry. How will the State address this?
The guidance is aligned with the spirit of this project, which seeks first to avoid, and if necessary, to minimize impacts to existing uses, and in particular fishing. The guidance document applies to BOEM in its evaluation of the lease application and the state intends to comply with all guidance in the State’s submittal to BOEM.
How are fishermen and other marine users being considered in the process?
The potential impacts of offshore wind development are a concern for many Maine fishermen, which is why the State wants to work with the industry in order to minimize potential impacts. Throughout the research array process, the state will work with the fishing industry and other marine users to identify a site for the array, identify research priorities, and to help generate understanding about how these industries can co-exist.