The State of Maine is expected to release the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap in early 2023, and the global offshore wind industry should be watching. Preliminary details from the state's roadmap-the focus of this post-clearly indicate that Maine is preparing to seize the significant opportunity presented by the Gulf of Maine offshore wind resource.
Maine's offshore wind energy potential is ranked seventh in the nation, with more than 411 TWh/yr of offshore resource-generating potential. This resource, largely in federal waters, is located in deep water close to population centers, making the Gulf of Maine an attractive location for the development of floating offshore wind.
Before diving into roadmap details, several additional state-led efforts relating to offshore wind deserve mention. In 2021, the State of Maine submitted a research lease application to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for a proposed floating offshore wind research array. The state's Department of Transportation and the Maine Port Authority have started public processes to support the creation of a floating offshore wind port facility in Maine. Further, the Maine International Trade Center, pursuant to its offshore wind strategy and in close coordination with the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development and the Governor's Energy Office (GEO), recently retained a consultant to introduce Maine businesses to opportunities in domestic and international offshore wind supply chains.
What's the goal of the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap?
Throughout the last two years, the State of Maine has been working to produce its offshore wind roadmap, an economic development plan for the offshore wind industry created with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Affirmed by its 10-year Economic Strategy and Climate Action Plan, Maine aims to use the Roadmap to prepare and position itself for thoughtful, targeted development of offshore wind that will grow the state's economy and improve its economic resiliency overall.
The Roadmap represents an extensive public engagement process, led by GEO, which seeks to "identify how to support the growing offshore wind sector in a way that embraces the opportunity, while ensuring compatibility with our Maine coastal heritage and minimizing the impacts on fisheries and the environment."
The Roadmap is being developed with broad public input by an advisory committee and several working groups, anchored by recent state-sponsored studies by world-class energy consultants including DNV, XODUS Group, and others. More than 100 Mainers serve on the advisory committee and various working groups, including more than a dozen representatives of Maine's fishing communities. GEO and the roadmap advisory committee have also taken their findings on the road throughout their development process to engage with additional stakeholder groups, including Maine's municipal government, economic development, and environmental nonprofit leaders.
Further, representatives note that the Roadmap creation process features cross-cutting themes of: regional coordination and collaboration; equity; stakeholder engagement and communications; and transparency and data-driven decision making.
Given this high-degree of stakeholder engagement groundwork laid by the state, this Roadmap should be a highly valuable policy document for a variety of audiences-including the offshore wind industry, various levels government, and interested members of the public. This Roadmap is likely to offer a comprehensive analysis of the opportunities and challenges (and therefore, insight into prospective state policy positions) that may arise as offshore wind development advances in the Gulf of Maine.
What can we expect to see when the final Roadmap is released in early 2023?
According to details shared during a recent meeting of the Roadmap Advisory Committee, five major objectives, 27 strategies, and 117 actions have emerged from the roadmap creation process. While we don't expect final, precise details until January, the Roadmap's five major objectives, with high-level preliminary strategies shared under each, are likely to include:
- Harness Abundant Renewable Energy to Reduce Long-term Costs, Reliance on Fossil Fuels, and Fight Climate Change
- Formally establish state procurement commitments
- Actively pursue regional transmission strategies and federal funding
- Act regionally to maximize benefits and lower costs
- Ensure a stable and predictable investment environment
- Pursue Offshore Wind Supply Chain Infrastructure and Workforce Investments to Support Economic Growth and Resiliency
- Engage workforce and businesses, and ensure opportunities for disadvantaged populations, communities, and firms.
- Develop export opportunities and industry awareness
- Attract investment and workforce
- Conduct ongoing engagement and consultation
- Strategically invest in infrastructure
- Advance Maine-based Innovation to Compete in Emerging National and Global Offshore Wind Industry
- Develop floating demonstration projects
- Leverage resources to commercialize Maine's R&D capabilities in floating offshore wind
- Establish a floating offshore wind innovation hub in Maine
- Leverage and expand Maine's capabilities in Artificial Intelligence, data science, and robotics
- Collaboratively research co-generation technologies, clean fuels, carbon capture, and storage
- Support Maine's Vital and Thriving Seafood Industries and Coastal Communities
- Strengthen and facilitate robust engagement
- Promote open, transparent, and comprehensive data gathering
- Seek to avoid and then minimize conflicts
- Ensure safe navigation
- Advance opportunities for fair and equitable benefits
- Protect the Environment, Wildlife, and Fisheries Ecosystem of the Gulf of Maine
- Collect high-quality, relevant data that is publicly available
- Strengthen Maine's policy framework
- Enhance regional collaboration in the Gulf of Maine
- Actively pursue state and other funding opportunities
- Facilitate open and transparent engagement and integration of technical advice
- Promote and advance new technologies
- Proactively reduce conflicts, minimize ecosystem impacts, and facilitate timely permitting
We can expect significant additional detail on the five major objectives and their related strategies to be shared when the final Roadmap is published.
While the first commercial offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Maine is not expected until 2024, Maine can already boast two notable offshore wind records: for being home to the nation's first grid-connected offshore wind turbine and the nation's first floating offshore wind turbine. These records were set simultaneously in 2013 when the University of Maine deployed its VolturnUS 1:8, a scaled version of its floating concrete semi-submersible offshore wind turbine design, in state waters off the shores of Castine, ME.
With this roadmap and its potential to catalyze large-scale, commercial offshore wind projects in the deep waters off its coastline, the State of Maine is poised to lead the way yet again.
We'll continue to monitor progress on the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap and other state and federal activities relating to offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine.
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