Seizing the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Offshore Wind

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Well, with the Gulf of Maine having some of the strongest and most consistent winds in the entire world; and with Maine’s deepwater port assets; with our proximity to international markets, and with the University of Maine’s extensive research and offshore wind technology, our state is poised to seize the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind.

For more than two years, my Administration has been considering the potential options for an offshore wind port. We have consulted with hundreds of interested parties. We have evaluated options thoroughly and objectively, recognizing that each site has its own set of benefits and its own set of drawbacks.

In carefully considering all of the pros and cons, I announced earlier this week that Sears Island is the State’s preferred site for offshore wind infrastructure.

Now, this wasn’t an easy decision. We were looking at both Sears Island and Mack Point as parts of the Port of Searsport. But we think Sears Island makes the most sense, and here’s why.

First of all, the parcel of land on Sears Island is already owned by the State, so both the upfront and the ongoing costs to the people of Maine will be substantially less than if we were to pursue Mack Point.

Secondly, Sears Island has the physical characteristics that are required for operating a port facility for floating offshore wind: a large unencumbered area with deepwater access. Mack Point, on the other hand, has an irregular shape and its competing uses make it, in my view, largely impracticable for the purpose of a port.

Thirdly, the Sears Island parcel will minimize impacts from southerly winds and seas, while providing safe shelter for the smaller vessels necessary to service the port. That port will offer the most direct approach in and out of the Searsport navigation channel and allow the existing docks at Mack Point to continue accommodating vessels necessary to serve Maine’s businesses and consumers.

Fourthly, the Sears Island parcel is not expected to require dredging, so less damage to the environment, while Mack Point on the other hand would require dredging in order to render sufficiently deep water to service a port.

And, finally, the parcel of land on Sears Island has been expressly designated for the purpose of development for a marine transportation facility since 2009. So this proposed use is consistent with that purpose, and it respects the longstanding agreement to conserve the majority of the island for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat.

Now, many people enjoy exploring Sears Island, and many are passionate about preserving it exactly as it exists now.

I understand their sentiments. I have hiked the island myself and I’ve circumnavigated it by boat. I recognize the historic and cultural value of Sears Island.

But in weighing the pros and cons, I believe the state-owned parcel on Sears Island is the best, least expensive, and least environmentally damaging option and it will unlock significant economic and clean energy opportunities for all the people of Maine.

In the coming months, the MaineDOT will be applying for federal and state permits. If approved, Sears Island will become the home of a world-class facility for the fabrication, staging, assembly, maintenance, and deployment of offshore wind technology. And 2/3rds of the island will remain a recreational and ecological location of world class standing.

The offshore wind industry is expected to generate as much as $1 trillion in worldwide investment by 2040.

The time has come to bring that investment to Maine, to create good-paying clean energy jobs, to generate renewable energy for our homes and businesses, and to stabilize and reduce our energy bills over the long term.

My Administration will continue to work closely with stakeholders across the state to seize upon the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind, particularly floating offshore wind, for all of our state.

And, the Port of Searsport — once one of the most important ports of the entire eastern seaboard — will rise again to become a thriving hub of commerce of world-renowned stature.

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.