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Governor proposes 10-year ban on wind turbines in Maine waters

Apr 28, 2021

Augusta — The administration of Gov. Janet Mills introduced legislation April 28 to establish a 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind projects located in state waters.

The moratorium would preserve state waters for valuable fishing and recreation, while reaffirming Maine’s priority of locating offshore wind projects in federal waters of the Gulf of Maine, where the state has proposed the nation’s first research array for first research array for floating offshore wind technology, according to a news release from the governor's energy office.

The legislation was developed in response to concerns from Maine’s fishing industry, as Maine pursues a responsible development course for offshore wind. Nearly 75% of Maine’s commercial lobster harvesting occurs in state waters.

“Maine is uniquely prepared to grow a strong offshore wind industry, create good-paying trades and technology jobs around the state, and reduce Maine’s crippling dependence on harmful fossil fuels,” Mills stated in the news release.

“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. 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.”

The moratorium legislation is sponsored by Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

This moratorium legislation strikes the right balance to protect Maine's fisheries and coastal waters, while continuing to advance the great energy and economic potential for offshore wind energy in federal waters of the Gulf of Maine," Lawrence stated in the news release.

The Gulf of Maine is home to some of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world. This makes offshore wind, a source of clean, renewable energy, a critical tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by reducing Maine’s nation-leading dependence on oil, aiding the expansion of clean transportation and clean heating solutions, and keeping here at home some of the more than $4 billion Maine people spend annually to import to fossil fuels, according to the press release.

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.

"We applaud the leadership Gov. Mills has demonstrated on responsibly moving the state ahead as it pursues its offshore wind potential. It is clear to everyone that we have seen more movement and activity on this development effort in the last two years than in the previous 10 combined,” said Jeremy Payne, the executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

“Bringing together the affected citizens and businesses is the right approach to ensuring we maximize the state's employment and investment potential, while balancing that with the need to respect other marine users. Gov. Mills is delivering on her commitment that 'Maine Won't Wait' and we agree with the importance in working with all parties to find common ground."

“Offshore wind will be key to powering the Northeast's future clean energy economy, and we are confident that it will coexist with our region's vibrant natural ecosystems,” said Peter Rothstein, the president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.

“Gov. Mills' balanced approach to supporting offshore wind development in federal waters while protecting Maine's state waters for fishing and recreation sets the right course for Maine’s clean energy future."

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

On March 29, the Biden Administration announced a Federal target of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, and a multi-agency plan to advance commercial-scale projects on the East Coast, provide $3 billion in financing, and invest $230 million in port infrastructure to support the offshore wind industry.

On March 26, Massachusetts enacted a law directing the Commonwealth to purchase an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy by the year 2027. On March 18, the New Hampshire Senate passed legislation 23-1 to direct the State to purchase 600 megawatts of new offshore wind energy by 2023.

These actions have intensified demand for offshore wind, and underscores why the Mills Administration has taken proactive 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, according to the news release.

“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, the 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 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 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. 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.

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. Details on the meeting schedule will be published on maine.gov/energy.

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.

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.

One of Gov. Mills’ first actions after taking office in 2019 was removing Maine from a coalition of states, joined by the previous administration, that was working to expand offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

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