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Mark W. Lawrence of Eliot represents southern York County in the Maine Senate. He is the Senate chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.
Maine can be proud that the Legislature made historic progress on offshore wind energy development during its 2021 session, keeping a promise made over the last decade to make Maine an international hub for floating offshore wind. This progress will grow our economy and address climate change while protecting the Gulf of Maine in harmony with all ocean users.
This historic floating offshore wind legislation accomplishes three major goals: It builds on Jumpstart 2000, the Research and Development initiative started by myself and other legislators in the 1990s, to create revolutionary floating wind technology by using patented research that is direct result of decades of investments in research and development at the University of Maine, our world-renowned research university. Second, the construction of this project will create new high-tech jobs in the building trades that will be exportable around the country and the globe. And, the research from this array in the Gulf of Maine could help to forge a renewable energy future benefiting future generations.
The two bills that I brought before the Legislature this year will build on the state’s research-focused process and advance this new technology in coordination with other ocean users.
L.D. 336, “An Act To Encourage Research To Support the Maine Offshore Wind Industry,” directs the Public Utilities Commission to negotiate a long-term power contract to support the state’s floating offshore wind research array in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine. This contract will further the state’s renewable energy goals and achieve aggressive job creation for Maine workers and new business for Maine companies.
L.D. 1619 prohibits development of offshore wind in state territorial waters — within three miles of shore — protects state waters while at the same time allowing both the single-turbine demonstration project already under development near Monhegan and the research array to proceed, providing valuable research and data on to both promote floating offshore wind and protect our fisheries at the same time. Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, a scientist, and Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, a fisherman, led the work to forge a bipartisan agreement that will assure greater involvement by those in the fishing industry in offshore wind planning and research.
These legislative actions, broadly supported by Democrats and Republicans, mean Maine is ready to fulfill that long-standing offshore wind promise created by three governors, multiple Legislatures and two statewide referenda. Coupled with the steps being taken by Gov. Janet Mills, Maine now has the tools and processes in place to fully test and commercialize UMaine’s patented floating technology while simultaneously protecting lobstering and fishing in both state territorial waters and federal waters in the Gulf of Maine.
A project more than 10 years in the making, offshore wind could bring substantial economic and environmental benefits to Maine. The research array is expected to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in total economic activity and create hundreds of Maine-based jobs during construction. My bill requires the research array to have a project labor agreement to ensure that the jobs will have good pay and benefits.
The climate crisis threatens nearly every aspect of our lives, from our economic stability to our ability to enjoy the great outdoors. Bold changes are necessary to mitigate its impact, and a major part of that is developing renewable energy, including offshore wind. An analysis by a respected Maine expert concluded it was impossible for Maine to meet its climate goals without the development of offshore wind. The clean energy that will be produced as a result of my legislation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking approximately 89,000 passenger cars off the road every year.
I am proud that, even in these difficult times, the Maine Legislature has taken unprecedented actions to protect the Gulf of Maine and the marine uses of the Gulf on which Mainers have relied for centuries, while also pursuing the economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind. With the right policies in place now, Maine is ready to responsibly develop and construct this renewable energy industry, reduce pollution and create sustaining, good-paying jobs.