On Wednesday, The Mills Administration introduced legislation, LD 1619, to establish a 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind projects located in State waters. The moratorium would preserve State waters for valuable fishing and recreation, while reaffirming Maine’s priority of locating offshore wind projects in Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine, where the State has proposed the nation’s first research array for floating offshore wind technology.

The legislation was developed in response to concerns from Maine’s fishing industry, as Maine pursues a responsible development course for offshore wind. Nearly 75 percent of Maine’s commercial lobster harvesting occurs in state waters.

The moratorium legislation is sponsored by Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. 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 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 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.

Maine’s move to prioritize offshore wind in Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine comes amid significant recent actions by the Federal government, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to advance offshore wind.

On March 29, the Biden Administration announced a Federal target of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, and a multi-agency plan to advance commercial-scale projects on the East Coast, provide $3 billion in financing, and invest $230 million in port infrastructure to support the offshore wind industry. On March 26, Massachusetts enacted a law directing the Commonwealth to purchase an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy by the year 2027. On March 18, the New Hampshire Senate passed legislation 23-1 to direct the State to purchase 600 megawatts of new offshore wind energy by 2023.

These actions have intensified demand for offshore wind, and is relative on why the Mills Administration has taken proactive steps to create an economic development plan to build an offshore wind industry – known as a “roadmap” — while also preparing to study the effects of floating offshore wind technology on fishing and the marine environment with the research array.

Expected to be completed in late 2022, the “roadmap” economic development plan will recommend policies, strategies, and investments for Maine to responsibly maximize the economic opportunity presented by offshore wind along the East Coast. The “roadmap” does not decide whether offshore wind projects are developed in the 36,000 square miles of the Gulf of Maine.

The research array, the first floating wind project of its kind proposed for the U.S., is essentially a smaller-scale model of an offshore wind project. Expected to have no more than 12 floating turbines over 16 square miles, the research array is a fraction of the size of most commercial-scale projects.

With few floating offshore wind turbines operating in the world, and none now in the U.S., the research array will conduct needed research and scientific study into floating offshore wind and its effects on fishing and the marine environment to inform future projects.

No site for the research array has yet been chosen, but it will be located 20-40 miles offshore, in an area of the Gulf of Maine which would allow it connect to the mainland electric grid at either Wyman Station in Yarmouth or Maine Yankee in Wiscasset. Further virtual public meetings about the research array organized by the Governor’s Energy Office and the Department of Marine Resources are upcoming. Details on the meeting schedule will be published on maine.gov/energy.

Once a proposed site is identified, the next step in the research array process is filing an application with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Full permitting of the array application may take between three and four years.

Megan Diver

Megan has worked in Maine politics for more than ten years and all of her professional career, having served in many roles for elected officials (including former Secretary of State Charlie Summers), in-house with the Maine Association of REALTORS®, legislative specialist at Pierce Atwood LLP providing lobbying services and support to Pierce Atwood’s government relations clients and most recently senior government relations specialist at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Megan currently is the Vice President at the Maine Energy Marketers Association, utilizing her vast knowledge and legislative experience at the State House to represent MEMA on policies relating to the Association and its members.