The state of Maine is closer than ever to generating clean, renewable energy from winds in the Gulf of Maine. A single test turbine is scheduled for testing a few miles off of Monhegan Island. An array of 10-12 turbines in federal waters about 45 miles off of Portland has received the green light from federal regulators, and will use technologies adapted at the University of Maine. We are moving in the right direction to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and do our part to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but we need to work quickly to ensure that offshore wind is done right.
On January 24, 2023, Maine Audubon joined partners from the environmental and labor communities at the State House in Augusta to announce new legislation that would make sure that Maine benefits from offshore wind produced off our coastline, and that potential impacts to wildlife and habitat are minimized to the greatest extent possible.
The “Offshore Wind Bill”, sponsored by Senator Mark Lawrence, would direct Maine’s Public Utilities Committee to order the procurement of energy produced from offshore turbines, and sets high environmental, equity, and labor standards for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine. Offshore wind will still move forward in the Gulf of Maine without this bill – the vast majority of the Gulf is owned by the federal government, not the state – but its passage would give Maine the leverage to push for responsible development and ensure that we reap the economic benefits of this historic opportunity.
Maine Audubon Conservation Biologist Sarah Haggerty was on hand to speak at the press conference alongside representatives from the Natural Resources Council of Maine; students from the University of Maine Advanced Structures & Composites Center; the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council; and Senator Lawrence. Sarah spoke about the work she has done to understand the potential environmental impacts of floating offshore wind in the Gulf and develop strategies for siting and operation to minimize them.
The well-attended event resulted in a number of articles and op-eds, found below. We’re excited to continue our push for renewable energy in the Gulf of Maine throughout this legislative session. Please join our Action Alert network to stay abreast of the latest opportunities to help.
Full text of comments from Sarah Haggerty, Maine Audubon Conservation Biologist, below:
Good morning. My name is Sarah Haggerty. I am a Conservation Biologist with Maine Audubon, Maine’s oldest and largest wildlife conservation organization.
For several years, I have focused my work on the intersection of renewable energy development and wildlife and wildlife habitat. Today, climate change is the single largest threat to Maine’s wildlife, and the rapid deployment of renewable energy resources, including offshore wind, is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. But like any new development, if not responsibly sited and operated, offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine could put additional pressure on already vulnerable bird, bat, fish, and other marine wildlife populations.
As a result of extensive study by biologists in Maine and across the region, I am confident that offshore wind can successfully coexist with wildlife in the Gulf of Maine. This legislation bolsters my confidence, because it includes environmental standards that will assure that offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine is guided by Maine biologists, commercial fishing representatives, and other stakeholders who are committed to conserving the Gulf’s natural resources while embracing Maine’s renewable energy transition.
This legislation also requires that meaningful funding from offshore wind developers flows to Maine researchers and conservation agencies. Three decades of offshore wind development in Europe has shown that offshore wind power can be responsibly sited and operated with appropriate mitigation measures to protect local wildlife and other natural resources. But here, more work still needs to be done to understand mitigation strategies that are specific to the Gulf of Maine. Just like similar policies in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere, this bill directs funding to state agencies, like Maine’s Department of Marine Resources and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, so that Maine-based conservation professionals can continue their work to help guide the responsible development of offshore wind in the Gulf.
This bill will put Maine in the driver’s seat, ensuring that the years of work undertaken by the Offshore Wind Roadmap process, the planned research array, and the work of biologists, labor organizers, and activists across the state comes to fruition. If Maine doesn’t take the initiative to help steer offshore wind development off our coasts, someone else will. Passing this legislation is our best chance for Maine to benefit from offshore wind, and to ensure that it responsibly co-exists with wildlife in the Gulf.
Portland Press Herald editorial: https://www.pressherald.com/2023/01/25/our-view-at-least-one-of-the-answers-is-blowing-in-the-wind/?
Portland Press Herald story: https://www.pressherald.com/2023/01/24/maine-would-buy-offshore-wind-power-in-huge-quantities-under-proposed-law/
State House News (MA): https://www.statehousenews.com/brief/202367