US State Floats 10-Year Ban on Offshore Wind

The U.S. State of Maine has introduced legislation to establish a 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind projects located in State waters.

Proposed moratorium would preserve State waters for fishing and recreation and prioritize offshore wind in Federal waters farther off the Maine coast, the Governor Janet Mills Administration said.

The Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine is where Maine 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, the Mills Adinistration said. Nearly 75 percent of Maine’s commercial lobster harvesting occurs in state waters.

”We will focus these efforts in Federal waters farther off our coast, as we responsibly pursue a small 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 Mills.

”Fundamentally, I do not believe offshore wind and Maine’s fishing industry are mutually exclusive. I believe they not only can coexist, but, together, can help us build a stronger economy with more good-paying jobs and a brighter, more sustainable future for Maine people.”

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.

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

Last month, the Biden Administration announced a Federal target of deploying 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030, and a multi-agency plan to advance commercial-scale projects on the U.S. East Coast, provide GBP 3 billion in financing, and invest GBP 230 million in port infrastructure to support the offshore wind industry.

That same month, Massachusetts enacted a law directing the Commonwealth to purchase an additional 2,400 MW of offshore wind energy by the year 2027, and the New Hampshire Senate passed legislation 23-1 to direct the State to purchase 600 MW of new offshore wind energy by 2023.

These actions have intensified demand for offshore wind. The Mills Administration has taken 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.

”The roadmap and the research array are necessary and complementary projects, which together will help inform responsible development of offshore wind in Maine to create new, good-paying jobs, fight climate change, and protect Maine’s important fisheries and marine environment,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office.

”With enough potential energy to power all of Maine by 2050, offshore wind is a critical part of Maine’s clean energy future for reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.”

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 U.S. 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 Floating Wind Research Array

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, the Administration said. 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.

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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.

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.

Aqua Ventus Unaffected by Moratorium

Separate from the array, the University of Maine and New England Aqua Ventus are developing a single-turbine demonstration site for floating wind technology in state waters near Monhegan. As a site previously designated for state waters, this project is not subject to the moratorium. There are no current offshore wind project applications for state waters.

Photo: Maine Governor Janet Mills. Source: maine.gov