May 18, 2022 By Ramona du Houx Portland– Labor, business leaders, and conservationists today urged the state and federal governments to act quickly and responsibly to bring innovative, locally developed floating offshore wind technology to the Gulf of Maine. Maine is positioned with the best deep water offshore wind that’s not too far offshore. The potential offshore wind capture would equal the power generated […]
May 18, 2022
By Ramona du Houx
Portland– Labor, business leaders, and conservationists today urged the state and federal governments to act quickly and responsibly to bring innovative, locally developed floating offshore wind technology to the Gulf of Maine.
Maine is positioned with the best deep water offshore wind that’s not too far offshore. The potential offshore wind capture would equal the power generated by 40 nuclear power plants.
“Maine has a unique opportunity to lead in developing well-sited and operated floating offshore wind with the least impact to wildlife and the environment,” said Sarah Haggerty, Conservation Biologist at Maine Audubon. “This is only possible if the state and federal governments fiercely pursue the development of a research array, and gather the critical data needed to inform responsibly sited and operated floating offshore wind.”
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), offshore wind has the potential to be a major clean energy source for the electric grid that powers Maine and New England — and the winds in the Gulf of Maine peak in the winter months when Maine’s energy use is the highest.
The enormous amounts of renewable power generated by the wind turbines could help bring down wholesale electricity prices and provide a stable and affordable source of electricity to the state, cushioning Maine people and businesses from the price spikes they are experiencing from the region’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
“Offshore wind represents an enormous opportunity for Maine’s economic future. Developing this resource will create a new industry built here in Maine, by Maine people, for the benefit of our state,” said Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors. “We can capitalize on this opportunity, but we must do so while ensuring the health of our marine resources including our lobstering and fishing industries.”
Innovative research from scientists and students at the University of Maine has positioned Maine to pioneer leading-edge floating wind turbine technology. Both the state’s ports and shipbuilding past position it well to develop a local clean energy industry that would generate good-paying jobs for Maine people.
That research headed up by Dr. Habib Dagher led to the implementation and development of the first floating offshore wind turbine in North America to successfully send power to the grid after years of testing with their break through designs. UMaine received bond funding from the state and federal funding in the millions for the research and development.
The unique thing about offshore wind is that it doesn’t stop in deep water. Night or day the winds blow. With floating offshore wind platforms ridding the waves in all seas they don’t suffer as much wear and tear as a standing turbine that is battered by the winds and weather. The deep the water the higher the winds. The taller the turbine the stronger the winds which generate more energy.
“We know that building a clean energy economy and ensuring the safety and economic security of Maine’s working families are not — and must never be — mutually exclusive,” said Jason J. Shedlock, President of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council and a member of the Laborers’ International Union. “A thoughtful and responsible buildout of offshore wind also powers decades’ worth of family-sustaining careers with benefits for current and future members of Maine’s local unions, leading to projects completed safely, on time, and on budget that will be the homegrown pride of Maine.”
Developing offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine would help accelerate the region’s transition to clean energy, which will help meet Maine’s climate goals and greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements. Projections show that wind projects deep offshore in the Gulf of Maine could not only serve the state’s electricity needs but also be exported to energy markets throughout New England to displace fossil fuel power plants.
“Adopting offshore wind as a significant energy source for Maine can help avert the worst impacts of climate change and make us more energy independent at the same time,” said Jack Shapiro, Climate & Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “If responsibly built and operated, Maine’s home-grown floating wind turbine technology can deliver the large amounts of reliable, affordable clean energy we’ll need as we electrify our homes, businesses, and transportation.”
On May 19th, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will host the next Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting to discuss the process for wind energy leasing and the framework for stakeholder engagement. Supporters of offshore wind in New England recently called for the federal government to begin research projects that will both inform siting decisions moving forward and ensure multiple viewpoints are considered.
“Fighting the climate crisis is a shared responsibility, and we can do our part by responsibly harnessing the infinite power of the Gulf of Maine’s winds,” said William Sedlack, Program Manager at Maine Conservation Voters. “Offshore wind could create hundreds of good-paying, union jobs in our state and is a necessary component to meeting Maine’s goal of reaching 80% clean energy by 2030. Protecting both our climate and economic future by leading on floating offshore wind technology and manufacturing will help ensure that Maine isn’t left behind as the growing sector advances.”
As envisioned, the research array would use floating offshore wind technology pioneered over the past decade by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Two years ago, the University announced a new $100 million partnership with two global leaders in offshore wind energy, Diamond and RWE Renewables, to develop the UMaine patented technology through a new company called New England Aqua Ventus.
New England Aqua Ventus is permitted to establish a single-turbine test project off Monhegan Island and a small-scale 12-turbine floating research array proposed for 30 miles offshore will allow University of Maine researchers to gather more scientific data to better understand the performance of these unique floating platforms, how floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine interacts with the marine environment, and to support safe and sustainable development.
Estimated to drive some $70 billion investment over the next decade alone, offshore wind has become a priority by many states on the eastern seaboard to meet growing demands for clean, renewable energy to combat climate change and the severe economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy in the development pipeline along the east coast.
With some of the highest sustained offshore wind speeds in the world, the federally managed waters of the Gulf of Maine are a likely destination for commercial-scale wind projects to meet growing energy demands. Proposing a research array is a prudent, proactive step for Maine to ensure Maine’s interests and values remain foremost in any offshore wind development.
HOW FAR IS THE USA PROGRESSED WITH OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY-
As of today, there is offshore wind activity on all U.S. coasts. The East Coast has seen the most commercial activity, accounting for the two operational projects and all lease sales to date. Several additional projects are nearing the construction phase.
- The Vineyard Wind project, an 800 MW project consisting of up to 84 turbines located approximately 12 nautical miles offshore of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and 12 nautical miles offshore of Nantucket—received approval of its construction and operation plan (COP) in May 2021 and began construction in November 2021.
- In addition, the 132 MW South Fork project located 35 miles east of Montauk Point, New York, received approval of its COP in November 2021.
- BOEM is currently reviewing an additional eight COPs and intends to complete at least 15 by 2025. This includes four projects off the New Jersey coast, including one of the largest to date, a 1510 MW project by developer Atlantic Shores and two projects by developer Ørsted contributing more than 2200 MW; the first floating offshore wind project off of the Maine coast; and several off the coast of Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
- On the West Coast, three wind energy areas have been identified off California’s coast with at least seven companies interested in developing floating offshore wind in the area.
- In Washington state, the Quinault Indian Nation has partnered with Greys Harbor Wind LLC to explore the potential of a 75-turbine project in their adjudicated usual and accustomed fishing areas.
- Additionally, the Gulf Coast states and Oregon have formed intergovernmental task forces to explore offshore wind.
- Hawaii has potential areas off its coast under consideration for development.
- In October, the Biden administration announced additional offshore wind lease sales by 2025.
- In February 2022, BOEM held the first lease sale of the Biden administration, auctioning more than 480,000 acres in the New York Bight, which generated a record $4.37 billion in winning bids.
- Additionally, new lease sales are expected to occur in the Carolinas and California in mid-2022.
- Lease sales in the Gulf of Maine, Central Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and off the Oregon coast are also anticipated.