Ten years ago, a task force on wind energy saw this moment clearly, when Maine would be in a position to capitalize on its human and natural resources to become players in the burgeoning offshore wind industry.

Maine soon abandoned this vision as Gov. Paul LePage came into office with a shortsighted approach to energy, and a blind ignorance toward the climate crisis.

But here we are, with a chance to get right back on track, not to where we should be, but at least pushing in the right direction.

A bill now before the Legislature, L.D. 994, would direct the Public Utilities Commission to approve a long-term contract with Aqua Ventus, a University of Maine-led initiative to test emerging offshore wind technology near Monhegan Island.

It’s the same contract the PUC, stacked by Gov. LePage, voted in July 2018 to renegotiate, putting the project in peril.

And it’s the same industry the PUC undercut in 2015, reopening on LePage’s prodding an agreement with Norwegian company Statoil, which had proposed a $120 million test project off Boothbay Harbor. Statoil instead took its project to Scotland, where it has invested more than $200 million, and given that country a head start on establishing itself as developer, manufacturer and exporter of offshore technology.


Such potential was recognized by the wind energy task force, which was created in 2008 by Gov. John Baldacci and released its findings in December 2009.

The winds in the Gulf of Maine are “one of the great untapped energy resources on earth” the task force wrote. They could fulfill a “significant portion” of Maine’s energy needs, while partnerships with the university and business community could develop new technologies “with the potential to create and sustain thousands of quality jobs.”

It was clear then that the world would need offshore wind energy to address climate change, and a lot of that resource is in places like the Gulf of Maine, where the water is too deep to secure turbines to the ocean floor. Floating technology is necessary to harness the wind energy, and that technology could be developed and manufactured here, then sold around the world.

The potential for offshore wind energy is seen today not only in the Statoil project but also in other developments across New England.

In April, Danish-based Orsted announced that it is investing in the industry in Rhode Island, pledging $4.5 million for training, research and business support. The investment is in conjunction with a project to build up to 50 turbines south of Martha’s Vineyard by 2023, providing enough electricity to power a quarter of Rhode Island homes.

In March, a German utility joined a New Hampshire-based clean energy lobbying group and signaled interest in developing offshore wind in the waters off not only New Hampshire but Maine and northern Massachusetts, too.

There is nothing those states can offer the offshore wind industry that Maine can’t. In fact, it’s rare that such a new, high-potential industry aligns so well with what Maine has to offer.

Fortunately, Gov. Mills has brought the Blaine House back on board with offshore wind. Her office testified in favor of L.D. 994 last week, and offshore wind development is part of her plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions and keep Maine energy spending at home.

That’s good news. Under Gov. LePage, Maine, once in the lead when it comes to offshore wind, fell behind. But it’s not too late to raise the sails.

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