Governor Mills Signs Legislation Prohibiting Offshore Wind Projects in State Waters

Prohibition preserves State waters for recreation and fishing – where up to 75 percent of Maine’s commercial lobster harvesting occurs – and cements into law Maine’s priority of locating offshore wind projects in Federal waters in the Gulf of Maine.

In coming weeks, Governor’s Energy Office to move forward astrategic plan for Maine’s offshore wind industry and the country’s first research area for floating offshore wind, located in the Gulf of Maine

Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills has signed into law LD 1619, which prohibits new offshore wind projects in State waters. The prohibition preserves State waters for recreation and fishing – where up to 75 percent of Maine’s commercial lobster harvesting occurs – and cements into law Maine’s priority of locating offshore wind projects in Federal waters in the Gulf of Maine.

The new law comes after Governor Mills last month signed into law another bill, LD 336, which advances the State’s creation of the nation’s first research area for floating offshore wind in Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine.

The Governor applauded the strong bipartisan support from the Maine Legislature to advance Maine’s unique position to grow a global offshore wind industry, which will create good-paying jobs for Maine people, support Maine’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy, and help fight climate change.

“Maine is uniquely prepared to grow a strong offshore wind industry, create good-paying trades and technology jobs around the state, and reduce our crippling dependence on harmful fossil fuels. This legislation cements in law our belief that these efforts should occur in Federal waters farther off our coast through a research array that can help us establish the best way for Maine to embrace the vast economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I applaud the Legislature’s strong bipartisan support of this bill, which I believe demonstrates that offshore wind and Maine’s fishing industry can not only can coexist but can help us build a stronger economy with more good-paying jobs and a brighter, more sustainable future for Maine people.”

The new law also reflects the Mills Administration’s careful approach to offshore wind and stems from extensive discussions among the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) and Department of Marine Resources with fishing, wildlife, and environmental organizations aimed at responsibly pursuing offshore wind in co-existence with Maine’s maritime heritage.

“The extensive and productive discussions with people from across Maine about offshore wind has helped inform a responsible plan to harness the abundant renewable energy available in the Gulf of Maine,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “Maine will need more sources of renewable energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that are driving climate change. Offshore wind can help us meet these objectives while also helping Maine create a global industry that continues the momentum of our clean energy economy.”

“This moratorium will protect Maine’s fisheries and coastal waters and maintain Maine’s status as a leader in developing clean energy and fighting climate change. Maine can continue to prioritize offshore wind in the Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine, which is home to some of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world,” said Senator Mark Lawrence, bill sponsor and Chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

"The strong bipartisan support for these new laws makes clear that Maine will responsibly grow its offshore wind industry by creating an inclusive, proactive process whereby the voices of all Mainers can and will be heard. However, it also conveys to the marketplace we won't place projects anywhere and everywhere -- we applaud Governor Mills for leading these efforts, and look forward to the significant boost offshore wind will provide to Maine's burgeoning clean energy economy," said Jeremy Payne, Executive Director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

"This bill's measured approach to offshore wind development in federal waters off the coast of Maine will allow the state to lower its dependance on fossil fuels while also preserving Maine's natural ecosystems," said Northeast Clean Energy Council President Peter Rothstein. "Offshore wind development will be critical to developing our future clean energy economy and avoiding the worst effects of climate change, and we applaud the Legislature and Governor Mills for taking this step forward for Maine."

"We must invest in clean renewable energy in order to combat the harmful effects of climate change on Maine's wildlife and habitat. Floating offshore wind has incredible potential to help us meet our climate goals, and we believe it can be deployed responsibly to avoid and minimize impacts to offshore wildlife and habitats. We thank Governor Mills for signing these bills to help properly study the impacts of floating offshore wind and to minimize conflicts,” said Sarah Haggerty, Conservation Biologist/GIS Manager, Maine Audubon.

The Gulf of Maine is home to some of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world. This makes offshore wind, a source of clean, renewable energy, a critical tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by reducing Maine’s nation-leading dependence on heating oil, aiding the expansion of clean transportation and clean heating solutions, and keeping here at home some of the more than $4 billion Maine people spend annually to import to fossil fuels.

Maine is also uniquely prepared to create good-paying trades and technology jobs across the state in offshore wind, by advancing the University of Maine’s innovative floating offshore wind technology, forging public-private partnerships for research, development and workforce training, and investing in Maine’s deep-water ports. Recent studies have indicated offshore wind represents a nearly $70 billion opportunity in the next decade.

"The University of Maine is proud that our clean energy research and development is helping strengthen the state's economy, environment, public health and place in the world. We appreciate the hard bipartisan work of the Mills Administration and the Maine Legislature this session to ensuring our pioneering efforts over the past decade-plus can appropriately advance and that our students can continue having the hands-on, real-world research learning experiences that will prepare them to be tomorrow's leaders, innovators and problem-solvers," said University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, who also serves as the University of Maine System's Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation.

The Administration is proposing a smaller-scale research array, which will contain up to 12 turbines, that plans to use innovative floating platform technology developed by University of Maine and a public private partnership with New England Aqua Ventus, a joint venture of two leading global offshore wind companies, Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables.

Under LD 336, the Maine Public Utilities Commission is authorized to negotiate a contract with a transmission and distribution utility to purchase up to 144 megawatts of energy from the proposed floating offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine.

Research from the array will inform development of floating offshore wind in the United States and leverage Maine’s ability to take advantage of its home-grown energy resources in the Gulf of Maine, which has enough clean energy potential to meet all of Maine’s electricity needs alone by 2050.

Under LD 1619, a research consortium comprised of experts in offshore wind, Maine’s fishing industry, and the marine environment, will be established by the state to oversee and coordinate the array’s research efforts.

“The Offshore Wind Research Consortium's (created by LD 1619) planned efforts to research the impacts of offshore wind while simultaneous development in federal waters will provide important insight. We look forward to supporting that effort in any way possible,”said Carrie Cullen Hitt, Executive Director, National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium

These advancements come at a time when national and regional activity in offshore wind are increasing. In March, the Federal government announced an aggressive target of 30 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2030 and its intention to open ocean leasing for commercial-scale offshore wind projects on the East Coast.

Around the same time, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusettssigned legislation that added 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energyto that state’s existing renewable energy targets. With offshore wind estimated to become a $70 billion industry in the U.S. by 2030, and a $1 trillion global industry by 2040, it carries the potential to create thousands of new, good-paying jobs in clean energy, marine industries, and skilled trades.

“Offshore wind is an enormous opportunity for Maine’s energy and marine businesses to further strengthen the state’s economy,”said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Maine’s companies are well positioned to seize this opportunity and build expertise for the 21st century, and I applaud the Governor and the legislature for making this a priority.”

“Ironworkers Local 7 is honored to be part of Maine’s just transition away from fossil fuels. Maine has the opportunity to lead the way with floating offshore wind technology and create a whole new local economy,” said Grant Provost, Business Agent, Ironworkers Local 7. “We applaud the Governor’s continued support of offshore wind while protecting state waters for commercial and recreational use. The Ironworkers look forward to the hundreds, if not thousands, of good paying, family sustaining union careers accompanying this one-of-a-kind opportunity.”

“Offshore wind is an international industry,” said Wade Merritt, President of Maine International Trade Center and Director of International Trade for Maine DECD. “No matter where individual projects are physically located, our innovation and manufacturing assets, as well as proximity to market, makes Maine an important partner for developers with global supply chains. From directly producing components and providing a strategic location for access to projects along the US East Coast, Maine companies in this sector are well positioned to benefit from the significant growth expected.”

The Governor’s Energy Office has joined the Business Network for Offshore Wind, a national nonprofit dedicated to growing the offshore wind industry and launched a Maine-specific supply chain network to connect Maine companies with offshore wind opportunities.

"Maine is a leader in floating offshore wind technology, policy, and business development. The Network is excited to help grow and export the state’s capabilities, knowledge, and floating offshore wind supply chain solutions across the U.S. and around the world," said Ben Brown, Director of Industry Education, Business Network for Offshore Wind.

“This legislation seeks to balance Maine’s existing heritage industry work with innovation in the clean energy sector”, said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “We look forward to the economic growth that offshore wind will provide while simultaneously helping us achieve our climate goals.”

Further steps to advance offshore wind in Maine begin this month. In coming days, the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) will also identify a preferred site for the research array, in advance of submitting a formal application for the area to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) later this summer.

Since December, GEO has held a series of public meetings to solicit information about potential array site, which is generally targeted for 20-40 miles from the Maine coast in an proximate area to allow for connection to the mainland electrical grid at Wyman Station in Yarmouth or Maine Yankee in Wiscasset.

The GEO, in consultation with other agencies, is now reviewing all data collected to inform the siting of the research array, with an emphasis on identifying a location with the least potential known conflicts with fishing, wildlife, and other ocean activity.

The GEO is planning a virtual public meeting on July 13 about the siting of the array and will accept feedback on the proposed site selection before finalizing an application to BOEM for a research lease.

The full regulatory review process with BOEM, which is expected to take several years to review and permit the project, will offer further opportunities for public input throughout the process.

The GEO will also hold a virtual meeting on July 14 to start the public process to develop an Offshore Wind Roadmap for Maine, a strategic plan for developing an offshore wind industry in the state.

Supported by a $2.16 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Agency, the Roadmap will be led by an Advisory Committee co-chaired by Ret. Admiral Gregory Johnson and Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office.

Work on the Roadmap will be supported by expert working groups on energy markets, ports, workforce, marine transportation, supply chains, fisheries, and wildlife as it relates to offshore wind. The Roadmap is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.