Maine Legislature Approves Bill to Boost Offshore Wind
July 26, 2023 (Augusta, ME) — Earlier this morning at about 3:00 a.m., the Maine Legislature passed a historic bill to encourage 3GW of offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine while creating good-paying jobs, protecting wildlife, avoiding key fishing grounds, and supporting new port construction. Read full statement from NRCM CEO Rebeccah Sanders.
Bringing Maine-made offshore wind technology to the Gulf of Maine would create good-paying jobs and generate large amounts of clean energy to meet our climate goals, protect our environment, and help make us more energy independent.
NRCM worked with our partners to pass a bill in 2023 that will boost the development of floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine by requiring a competitive procurement of 2.8 GW of wind energy over the next 12 years.
What do you already know about offshore wind? Take our quiz to find out.
Meeting Maine’s Energy Needs
Guided by the best available data and scientific research, Maine can use floating wind turbine technology developed and built here in our state to generate large volumes of clean, reliable electricity and reduce our reliance on expensive fossil fuels.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, offshore wind has the potential to be a major source of clean energy for the electric grid that powers Maine and New England.
- The Gulf of Maine has some of the strongest and most consistent winds in the world, and those winds peak in the winter months when our energy use is the highest. On a daily basis, offshore wind will generate the most power at night, complementing solar energy, which peaks during the day, making the two natural partners.
- The renewable energy produced by offshore wind will also bring down wholesale energy prices and make Maine less dependent on a volatile fossil fuel market. By producing clean and reliable energy in-state, Maine can better control its energy future.
- Projections show that wind projects deep offshore in the Gulf of Maine could not only serve Maine’s electricity needs but also could be exported to energy markets throughout the region to displace fossil fuel power plants.
With the price of energy skyrocketing due to the volatility of the fossil fuel market, it is more important than ever that Maine develops local reliable and affordable clean energy sources here at home.
Where Will the Turbines be Placed?
The Gulf of Maine includes a vast area of about 36,000 square miles, and most of it is in federal waters. Because Maine ocean waters become deep very quickly offshore, it is not possible to build projects anchored to the sea floor, so wind turbines will have to be placed on floating platforms far offshore.
The federal and state governments will work together to identify optimal locations for commercial wind development, using the best available science and extensive input from a wide range of ocean users and stakeholders. Maine’s offshore wind projects will likely be located 25-50 miles from the coast, which is where the strong and consistent winds are.
If developed responsibly, using the best data and scientific research available, offshore wind turbines could be placed where wind conditions are the strongest while mitigating impacts to wildlife, the marine environment, and other users of the Gulf of Maine. The Gulf is a shared public resource, and everyone who uses it, especially fishermen and lobstermen, must have a voice in how this resource contributes to Maine’s future needs.
100% Clean Energy for Maine People
To meet Maine’s bipartisan climate goals, we need large new sources of clean energy to replace polluting oil and gas power plants, and to provide carbon-free energy as we electrify our homes, businesses, and transportation.
In 2019, bipartisan majorities of the Maine Legislature passed new climate laws to:
- Transition 80% of Maine’s electricity to renewables by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
- Require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, and 80% by 2050.
Maine’s Climate Action Plan prioritizes the development of new clean energy projects within the next 5-10 years in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
Unlike oil and gas, clean energy sources like offshore wind, along with solar, will never run out; they don’t create pollution; they’re produced right here in Maine; and they will provide a reliable and stable energy supply long into the future.
A Maine-made Industry to Power Our Future
Maine could quickly become a worldwide industry leader in offshore wind if the state and federal governments work together to responsibly develop wind power projects using floating wind turbine technology developed and built in Maine.
Innovative research from scientists at the University of Maine has positioned Maine to pioneer leading-edge floating wind turbine technology. And our proud ship building history perfectly positions us to be a staging area for the development of offshore wind, bringing good-paying and long-lasting clean energy careers to Maine people.
Maine people have always risen to a challenge. Today, we can use Maine’s current and growing skilled workforce, and the apprenticeship and other workforce development programs that sustain it, to build a clean energy industry that powers our economy for generations.
What’s Next for Offshore Wind in Maine?
The federal government oversees wind development in federal waters and a Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force is meeting to discuss the process for wind energy leasing and the framework for gathering public input.
In Maine, the Governor’s Energy Office has launched a Maine Offshore Wind Initiative dedicated to the growth of this new industry through strategic planning, research, and coordination with groups from Maine, the nation, and the world.
The initiative is working on an offshore wind roadmap that would help ensure that any offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine results in jobs and economic benefits for Maine people by preparing Maine’s commercial seaports, investing in workforce development, and helping advance the University of Maine’s patented floating offshore wind technology.
A single-turbine test project off Monhegan Island and a small-scale 12-turbine floating research array proposed for 30 miles offshore are being developed in partnership with University of Maine researchers. These projects will allow researchers to better understand the performance of these unique floating platforms, how floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine interacts with the ocean environment, and to ensure development is safe and sustainable. The findings of this research will then be used to inform future decision-making.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine strongly supports efforts by the federal and state governments to accelerate investment in offshore wind. It will provide good jobs; help meet our climate goals; deliver clean, reliable electricity to power our homes, businesses, and transportation sector; and protect the future of our environment.
Our Climate & Clean Energy Team is collaborating with other conservation groups and participating in the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative to make sure that offshore wind is developed responsibly to protect the Gulf of Maine and provide the greatest maximum benefits to our people, communities, and economy.
Banner photo courtesy UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center