Maine Governor Unveils New Floating Wind Project

Maine Governor Janet Mills has announced a plan for the state to set up U.S. first floating offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine to advance new technology in collaboration with the state’s fishing industry.

The state intends to file an application with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for the project to be led by New England Aqua Ventus, a joint venture between Mitsubishi’s Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables, which is already developing a demo floating wind project in the state that utilises VolturnUS, the floating concrete semi-submersible hull designed by the University of Maine (UMaine).

The array, comprising “a dozen or fewer” wind turbines – also supported by UMaine’s VolturnUS foundations – would be located in an area that would allow a connection to the mainland electric grid in the southern half of the state, most likely some 32 to 64 kilometres off the coast.

The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) will work closely with Maine’s commercial fishing industry, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), and other interested parties to determine the site for the research array.

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the Gulf of Maine has some of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world and wind energy generation will likely come from floating offshore wind turbines due to the deep waters, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

The Gulf of Maine’s OCS has great potential for generating clean energy and economic opportunity for the state, as offshore wind investment in the U.S. is estimated to top USD 70 billion through 2030, the press release states.

Since floating wind is a technology still under development in the U.S, it requires additional scientific study on its potential effects on fisheries and the marine environment, and setting up a small-scale research array in the Gulf of Maine can allow the state to engage the fishing industry’s expertise to minimise potential harms and maximise the benefits from offshore wind.

“Maine’s fishing industry is a vital part of our state’s economy, heritage and identity. Its voice must be heard when considering this new offshore wind technology”, said Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources. “The Department welcomes the chance to work proactively with the fishing industry to hear and understand its concerns about offshore wind, and to ensure its perspectives inform the development and operation of the research array in the Gulf of Maine”.

Harnessing the wind resources off the coast of Maine is critical to meet the state’s climate goals of using 80 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050, according to the Governor’s office, which further added that the development of offshore wind also represents a significant opportunity for Maine’s economic recovery from COVID-19.