Gov. Janet Mills’ energy office on Friday filed a federal application to lease an area in the Gulf of Maine for a floating offshore wind research site that has drawn concern from the fishing industry.
The office is asking the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to lease a 15.2-square-mile area about 30 miles offshore in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine. The Democratic governor signed legislation in June that prohibits new offshore wind projects in state waters extending three miles offshore and where a majority of commercial fishing occurs.
The r esearch array, announced last November, is part of an ongoing offshore wind initiative announced by Mills in 2019 after she made climate one of her main issues since being elected the year before. A report from her office last November touted offshore wind as a significant opportunity for economic recovery. The state’s climate goals are to move to 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
“This research project will help establish the best way for our state to embrace the vast economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind,” Mills said in a statement.
The research array will have up to 12 wind turbines on floating hulls designed by the University of Maine. The project also will research how floating offshore wind arrays interact with Maine’s marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes.
The application comes after bipartisan support in the Maine Legislature for LD 336, sponsored by Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, and signed by the governor in June. It says the research array is in the public interest and authorized the Maine Public Utilities Commission to negotiate a power purchase agreement with New England Aqua Ventus, a project partner with the University of Maine.