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Maine gets greenlight for landmark floating offshore wind research array

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Maine gets greenlight for landmark floating offshore wind research array

May 28, 2024 | 2:10 pm ET
By AnnMarie Hilton
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Maine gets greenlight for landmark floating offshore wind research array
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VolturnUS is UMaine's patented floating concrete hull technology that has been awarded 43 patents in the U.S. and abroad. (University of Maine image)

Maine has gotten the green light to develop the nation’s first floating offshore wind research site in federal waters. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offered a research lease to Maine last Friday for a floating offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine after an environmental assessment found the proposal would have no significant environmental impacts, according to an announcement Tuesday. 

Gov. Janet Mills called the lease a “major milestone” in the state’s effort to harness the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind for Maine people.  

“Offshore wind offers our state a tremendous opportunity to harness abundant clean energy in our own backyard, to create good-paying jobs and drive economic development, and to reduce our over-reliance on fossil fuels and fight climate change,” Mills said in a news release. 

Mills said her administration will be reviewing the lease in the coming weeks. The state has 30 calendar days to accept, reject or request modifications. 

In 2021, Maine applied to lease just over 15 square miles in the Gulf of Maine. The array will contain no more than 12 turbines and plans to use the floating concrete platforms designed by the University of Maine. 

According to the governor’s office, the array will support research into priority topics identified by the Maine Offshore Wind Research Consortium, established in 2021 by Mills with bipartisan support to better understand the local and regional impacts of floating offshore wind power projects in the Gulf. 

This project is smaller and on a faster timeline than the expected commercial projects, according to the Governor’s Energy Office. Construction on a proposed offshore wind port in Searsport is not expected to start until 2026 or 2027. The research conducted at the array is supposed to inform best practices for the commercial projects. 

BOEM is also looking for feedback on the proposed lease stipulations for the commercial projects regarding environmental monitoring and whether to incentivize bidders who commit to supporting workforce training programs or supply chain development, according to the agency. 

People who wish to comment can do so by going to regulations.gov and searching for BOEM-2024-0026, or by attending one of the in-person BOEM public meetings.

The first of three in-person meetings will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Portland-by the Bay at 88 Spring Street. People may register online to attend. The second meeting will be held on Wednesday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the final one will be the day after in Danvers, Massachusetts.