September 16, 2012

“It looked like the Washington Monument, the way it was erected there, planted in the North Sea. I thought to myself, ‘this symbol of deep-sea, wind energy represents our independence from foreign energy,” said Gov. John Bladacci when he and researchers visited Norway in 2009.

During the trip UMaine signed an agreement to share technology with StatoilHydro. Statoil is majority owned by the Norwegian government.

“In the race up and down the Atlantic to have the first offshore wind project, we can’t let Maine fall behind. To get us over the finish line so we can start producing pollution-free energy and creating local jobs from offshore wind development, Maine’s leaders need to act now. Congress must extend the offshore wind tax credit before it expires at the end of the year, and Governor LePage must send a clear signal that he supports this clean energy source that hold so much potential for Maine,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor.

Maine can protect the environment and create jobs while powering our homes and businesses with local, clean energy, but only if our elected officials and regulators take the right steps now, according to a new report released by the National Wildlife Federation, Environment Maine, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Conservation Law Foundation and others. The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy: Time for Action to Create Jobs, Reduce Pollution, Protect Wildlife & Secure America’s Energy Future, details the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind energy, potential obstacles to progress, and a prosperous path forward.

Maine has taken several steps to accelerate the development of offshore wind since 2007, including through bipartisan legislation, passing state bonds for research and development, winning competitive federal grants, the establishment of task forces, and setting state goals for offshore wind.

Governor John E. Baldacci was determined to lessen the burden of oil consumption for residents and businesses. His administration developed a fifty year energy policy with achievable goals to help the state become less dependent on imported fossil fuels. When a report in 2006 came out about the potential of Maine’s offshore wind as an energy source policymakers, researchers at the University of Maine, and business leaders jumped at the opportunity for the state. Maine became an early leader in offshore wind technology in order to save businesses and consumers money, attract greater private investments, export the energy to larger markets, and create jobs.

“Offshore wind in Maine is not only good for the environment, but is also good for the economy and for creating local jobs. Our workers stand ready to help Maine develop our offshore wind resources and keep jobs at home,” said Don Berry, president of the Maine AFL-CIO.

More about Maine’s offshore wind potential according to the report:

Maine’s Offshore Wind Potential: The 2010 NREL Assessment identified approximately 157 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind technical energy potential within 50 nautical miles of Maine’s coast, and the State of Maine has estimated the Gulf of Maine’s wind energy potential to be 149 GW within 50 nautical miles – enough to power nearly 40 million homes.

Maine’s Status of Offshore Wind Energy Permitting Process: Statoil North America has proposed a floating turbine pilot with four turbines, which are each three megawatts, about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Maine. Statoil has a memorandum of understanding with the University of Maine to share research. UMaine will launch its own floating wind turbine in March, 2013. Federal and State permitting and regulatory authorities are reviewing the Statoil proposal and soliciting public input.

Policy & Law: Maine law requires utilities to produce 40 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2017, 10 percent of which must come from new renewable energy projects. Maine participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Maine has implemented legislation that sets an ambitious goal of producing 5 GW of electricity from offshore wind turbines by 2030.

The report states that although these actions are beginning to bear early fruit, further progress depends on state and federal officials taking concrete actions to move offshore wind forward.

“Maine people win twice with offshore wind energy – not only does our economy benefit from the jobs and energy security that offshore wind energy brings, but as a coastal state, we benefit from cutting the climate-changing carbon pollution that’s fueling sea-level rise and threatening our shores and fisheries,” said Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Unfortunately there is still a disconnect between the opportunity before us and action needed to achieve big benefits. Congress needs to set aside partisan bickering and send a clear signal that America is committed to clean energy.”

At the end of this year, the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit for wind energy are set to expire. Maine’s Senators have led the way by cosponsoring legislation to extend these credits.

The report highlights the vast amount of offshore wind energy available and the enormous economic and environmental potential from investments that will transition Maine and other parts of the region toward a clean, home-grown energy source. The report catalogs progress to-date on policy, regulatory reforms and strategic public investments, and describes the Atlantic region’s place in an international race to develop offshore wind—and particularly in Maine, deep-water offshore wind.

“The fact that StatOil has applied to build four floating turbines in the deep waters off Maine’s coast shows that our state is a center of gravity for progress on offshore wind. We’ve gotten this far thanks to the leadership of the Ocean Energy Task Force and the Legislature. Now it’s time to move full steam ahead—for Maine’s environment, economy, and energy independence,” said Representative Stacey Fitts of Pittsfield, who is the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology.