The state of Maine is proposing the country’s first floating offshore wind farm in federal waters off Northern New England.
They hope to win a federal research lease to build a dozen turbines over about 16 square miles. The project will generate 120 megawatts of power.
That's enough to power at least 75,000 homes. It's bigger than many onshore wind projects in the region, but far smaller than the typical full-scale offshore development.
Maine is still looking for a specific site for the project, but state energy director Dan Burgess says it could be 20 to 40 miles offshore, since floating turbines can sit in deeper waters than traditional fixed turbines.
Burgess says Maine will work on the project with a University of Maine business partnership called Aqua Ventus, which is a few years away from completing a pilot project with a single floating turbine in state waters off Maine’s Monhegan Island.
“The opportunity to work with these developers using the Maine-made, Maine-developed floating technology is just a really significant opportunity for the state, and for us to continue to take a national and even global leadership position for floating offshore wind,” Burgess told Maine Public after the project was announced Friday.
Maine is also part of a federal task force with New Hampshire and Massachusetts, seeking to plan a full-scale commercial wind leasing area in the Gulf of Maine. That process began about a year ago and could take up to a decade to come to fruition.
Advocates say Maine’s proposed research project could feed crucial data to that group about the pros and cons of floating turbines – including for coastal towns, marine ecosystems and commercial fishermen, who have raised concerns about the economic impacts of any wind development in the region.
Maine’s Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has positioned the burgeoning wind industry as a key part of potential economic recovery from the pandemic, and of the state’s response to climate change, with a goal of moving to 80% renewable energy use by 2030.
This story includes reporting from Maine Public's Fred Bever, through the New England News Collaborative.