Sears Island to House Maine’s Floating Offshore Wind Port

Maine Governor Janet Mills has revealed that the state has selected a section of state-owned Sears Island reserved for port development as its preferred site for a port facility to support the floating offshore wind industry.

Based on technical and engineering analyses, and input from port and offshore wind stakeholders – including the University of Maine – the State concluded the Sears Island parcel is the most feasible port development site regarding location, logistics, cost, and environmental impact.

“This was not an easy decision, nor is it one that I made lightly. For more than two years, my Administration has evaluated Sears Island and Mack Point thoroughly and with an open mind, recognizing that each site has its own set of benefits and its own set of drawbacks,” said Governor Mills.

In carefully considering all of these, I believe that, on balance, Sears Island is the best choice for an offshore wind port because it is already owned by the state, designated for the purpose of port development, will cost less in the short-term and long-term, and is expected to result in less environmental harm.”

The site selection follows an extensive public stakeholder process led by the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Port Authority to consider the State’s primary port development options, including multiple potential sites in the Port of Searsport, the Port of Eastport, and the Port of Portland.

In 2009, the 941-acre Sears Island was, by agreement, divided into two parcels: approximately 601 acres, or two-thirds of the island, was placed in a permanent conservation easement held by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, while the remaining one-third, or approximately 330 acres, was reserved by MaineDOT for future development.

The site selected by the State is expected to be about 100 acres in totality, which is about one-third of the State-owned parcel or a little more than one-tenth of the entire island.

The proposed port would be a purpose-built facility for floating offshore wind fabrication, staging, assembly, maintenance, and deployment. The estimated port construction cost on the Sears Island site is approximately USD 500 million.

With deepwater access to the port development site, Maine has the potential to establish a premier location for the industry and help meet the growing demand in the US for offshore wind port infrastructure, according to the office of Governor Janet Mills.

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The Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, issued one year ago, determined a port facility is a priority for unlocking the State’s opportunity in offshore wind to create good-paying jobs, spurring broad economic development, and generating clean electricity to stabilise energy costs and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

In July 2023, Governor Mills signed LD 1895, legislation to advance offshore wind in Maine by procuring up to 3,000 MW of offshore wind energy.

The State has proposed to lease a site in Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine for a Floating Offshore Wind Research Array. An application for that lease site remains pending before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Federal agency charged with leasing ocean areas for offshore wind development.

The array is proposed to include 10–12 turbines on semi-submersible floating concrete platforms known as VolturnUS, designed by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composite Center. The final size and location of the research site will be determined by BOEM during its leasing review process.

In October last year, BOEM identified a draft Wind Energy Area (WEA) offshore the Gulf of Maine holding an estimated 40 GW of capacity.

The draft WEA announced on 19 October has a capacity of over 40 GW, which exceeds the current combined offshore wind energy planning goals for the Gulf of Maine states: 10 GW for Massachusetts and 3 GW for Maine.

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