Mills announces assessment of Searsport terminal to support Maine’s offshore wind Industry




By Ramona du Houx

On March 11, 2020, Governor Janet Mills announced that her Administration will examine the Mack Port Terminal in Searsport for opportunities to support Maine’s offshore wind energy industry.

“Offshore wind is poised to become a $1 trillion industry by 2040, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, providing clean renewable energy, and spurring economic growth. With our existing port infrastructure and proximity to both European and east coast markets, Maine is well-positioned to become a leader in the offshore wind industry just as Scotland has,” said Governor Mills. “Searsport has been critical for the delivery and deployment of onshore wind in New England for years. My Administration will evaluate how the Port can do the same for offshore wind. I look forward to the results of this assessment and charting a path forward for this industry in Maine.”

The announcement follows Governor Mills’ visit to Scotland during the beginning of March as a member of a U.S. state and federal delegation organized by the United Kingdom government to learn more about offshore wind.

 UMaine’s Maine Aqua Ventus will be the first floating offshore wind project in the country. 

Aqua Ventus is planning to use the Port to assemble the hull that will be towed out to the demonstration test site off Monhegan Island.

The University of Maine estimates that Aqua Ventus will produce nearly $152 million in total economic output, and more than 553 Maine-based direct jobs during the construction period, including jobs for design and construction. Operations and maintenance of the facility will create an additional direct economic output of approximately $16 million over 20 years.

Mack Point Terminal is already a shipment deep water entry port for onshore wind turbine components. The latest were delivered to the terminal for Longroad Energy’s Weaver Wind land-based project in Hancock County. 

"Over the last decade, wind investment in Maine has crossed the $2 billion mark – the Searsport terminal and many other Maine businesses have benefited from this influx of capital; importantly, it allows our investment to directly benefit Maine people and Maine industry,” said Paul Gaynor, chief executive officer of Longroad Energy. 

Governor John Baldacci prioritized UMaine’s offshore wind project, making sure state and federal grants jump started the long-term project. During the Baldacci Administration the port was dredged to accommodate larger ships, with the goal of helping the Maine Wind Initiative and rail. And it has.

The Maine Port Authority and MaineDOT recently invested in a new heavy bulk cargo handling equipment at the port.  In addition, MaineDOT over the last two years has made investments in upgrading the connecting rail infrastructure at the port.

“Onshore wind development has provided a great boost to Maine's economy. Hundreds of Maine construction workers have been kept employed by this industry for many years,” said Representative Scott Cuddy. “The oncoming development of offshore wind is an exciting time for Maine and an exciting time for Searsport. Maine is poised to be an industry leader.”

The Port Infrastructure and Market Potential Assessment is part of the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative. It will:

  • utilize the 2017 Searsport Intermodal Commodity Study as a foundation and identify and assess short-term and long-term port opportunities related to the offshore wind industry. 
  • at a minimum, review current site characteristics, provide an analysis of potential port users and identify structural improvements or capital investments that may be needed. 
  • analyze and review will also be undertaken to review offshore wind supply chain opportunities such as foundation and turbine assembly as well as the workforce needed to support these activities in Maine. 

Governor Mills makes an announcement to study Mack Point for its offshore wind potential.  Representative Scott Cuddy, Dan Burgess, Commissioner Bruce Van Note, Commissioner Heather Johnson spoke, as well.

An active seaport since the 1700s, Searsport is Maine’s second largest seaport and is home to an intermodal port facility serving coastal and inland areas of Maine. The Mack Point terminal is currently able to handle a diverse array of product including bulk shipments as well as project and containerized cargo.

The terminal currently has space for laydown, bulk piling, warehousing and liquid tank storage as well as a potential for further development on existing property. Sprague Operating Resources, LLC operates Mack Point and owns the liquid bulk pier, while the Maine Port Authority owns the dry bulk pier, which Sprague operates. 

“The town of Searsport is excited and pleased to see progress in the development of offshore wind out of our Port,” said Searsport Town Manager, James Gillway. “We have been closely connected to the ocean since our inception in 1845. We thank the Governor for moving this industry forward as clean, renewable energy is vitally important to our community and state.

During the Mills Administration, Maine has moved forward renewable energy and offshore wind. The wind moratorium was lifted, legislation requiring the PUC to approve the contract for Maine Aqua Ventus became law, and Maine joined New Hampshire and Massachusetts on the federal Gulf of Maine Renewable Energy Task Force to examine opportunities for offshore wind. The Task Force seeks to identify potential opportunities for renewable energy leasing and development sites in federal waters off the coast of Maine. 

The Port Infrastructure and Market Potential Assessment will be led by the Maine Department of Transportation (Maine DOT), the Governor’s Energy Office, and the Department of Economic and Community Development as a part of the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative.