January 24, 2023 (Augusta, ME) – Maine labor and conservation groups today unveiled a bill that would boost the development of responsibly sited floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine by requiring a competitive procurement of 2.8 GW of floating offshore wind over the next 12 years, enough to power 980,000 homes with renewable energy.
“I’m here because Maine is the place to be for this industry. It’s the place to get educated on the science, and due to the abundant wind resources off the coast of Maine, it’s the place to deploy these systems,” said Alyssa McGlynn, Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center.
Supporters say passing the bill into law would put Maine on the map as a global leader in floating offshore wind, stimulating billions of dollars in private sector investment in Maine businesses, communities, and workers while maintaining high environmental, equity, and labor standards for project development.
“Mainers are facing crippling energy bills because of our reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Powering the region with offshore wind will provide the clean energy we need to stabilize electricity prices and meet Maine’s ambitious climate goals,” said Senator Mark Lawrence, Chair of Committee on Energy, Utilities & Technology. “This bill will make sure we’re acting on the timeline necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change while ensuring strong standards for environment, labor, and equity.”
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is undergoing a years-long, thorough review to determine the most appropriate locations for floating offshore wind turbines in federal ocean waters far off the coast of Maine. The federal process, combined with Maine’s forthcoming Offshore Wind Roadmap, demonstration project, and planned research array, will ensure the best available data and scientific research is used to inform siting, construction, and operations.
“Climate change is the most pressing threat to Maine wildlife, and developing local, renewable energy sources is critical to preventing the worst of its impacts,” said Sarah Haggerty, Conservation Biologist at Maine Audubon. “Maine has a unique opportunity to lead in developing well-sited and operated floating offshore wind with the least impact to wildlife and the environment, but those benefits and protections aren’t guaranteed without this legislation.”
Years of experience from other states and around the world have shown that the best way for Maine to capture the economic and equity benefits of new clean energy, including supply chain investments, port improvements, and workforce development, is by setting a schedule of competitive procurements like those proposed in the bill.
“Using technology built right here in Maine and guided by the best available research and data, we can generate clean reliable electricity, create thousands of good-paying jobs for Maine people, and protect the Gulf of Maine’s unique ecosystem and the people and wildlife that depend on it,” said Jack Shapiro, Climate & Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Under the proposal, the state’s Public Utilities Commission would manage the procurement process for offshore wind. Previous renewable energy procurements adopted by the Legislature that resulted in a 700% growth in solar projects since 2018 have already driven energy costs down for electricity customers, helping to buffer against rising costs due to continued fossil fuel use in the region.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), offshore wind has the potential to be a major clean energy source for the New England electric grid — and the winds in the Gulf of Maine peak in the winter months when Maine’s energy use is the highest.
The enormous amounts of renewable power generated by the wind turbines could help bring down wholesale electricity prices and provide a stable and affordable source of electricity to the state, cushioning Maine people and businesses from the price spikes they are experiencing from the region’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
“We know that to protect Maine’s treasured natural resources, it’s going to take partnering with another one of Maine’s treasured natural resources: our working families, including those who make their living on land as well as those on the water,” said Jason J. Shedlock, President of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council and Regional Organizer with the Laborers’ International Union.
“We also know that energy generation isn’t truly clean if it harms workers and is built on the backs of exploited labor. That’s why unions and working families across Maine are in steadfast support of this coalition and this approach, which works to build upon recent efforts and further underscores an objective fact: we cannot – and will not – build Maine’s clean energy industry without ensuring we also build Maine’s middle class,” continued Shedlock.
Offshore wind is an opportunity for Maine to develop a leading, innovative clean energy industry using technology created by at the University of Maine. Researchers at UMaine have developed a patented floating concrete hull technology that could be used to reduce the costs of offshore wind projects in the Gulf of Maine.
“This bill will foster an equitable transition to renewable energy, ensuring union job opportunities and economic benefits are available to all Mainers, from the coast to our rural inland communities,” said Kelt Wilska, Energy Justice Manager at Maine Conservation Voters and Maine State Lead for the New England for Offshore Wind coalition.