A decade ago, then-Gov. John Baldacci put together a panel of experts to explore ways in which Maine could use the ocean to generate electricity. The state was then suffering as a result of an international oil-price shock that was threatening Mainers’ ability to heat their homes and drive themselves to work.

The report of the Ocean Energy Task Force identified “the great winds that sweep across the Gulf of Maine” as the best source of home-grown energy, both economically and environmentally.

“These winds are one of the great untapped energy resources on earth and hold the potential to supply a significant portion of Maine’s energy needs – not only for lights and computers but heat for houses and fuel for our cars,” the task force’s final report read. “Moreover, Maine has the potential to emerge as a net energy exporter through the aggressive development of its offshore wind and other renewable ocean energy resources.”

Ten years later, that vision is even more important, and not because of the instability of oil prices. The effects of climate change are reaching crisis levels both globally and in Maine. The need to electrify home heating and transportation are critical to our ability to reduce carbon emissions and the vision of the 2009 Ocean Energy report has not been fulfilled. But it is inching closer to reality.

Maine Aqua Ventus, a one-of-a kind floating wind energy platform, has the funding to build a full-size one-turbine demonstration project, two miles south of Monhegan Island using technology developed at the University of Maine.

It is on pace to be the first floating wind turbine in American waters, and if successful, the project could be replicated at commercial scale, providing clean electricity at competitive prices.

The project is a public-private venture that has been awarded more than $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in competitive grants. Last month, it received an additional $5 million grant, and last week, a state contract to buy the electricity produced at the one-turbine project.

It’s on pace to be generating power by 2022, which is behind schedule, but not because the technology has not been up to the task.

Wind energy hit a political roadblock after Baldacci left office, and Maine Aqua Ventus had to overcome a hostile chief executive, who used the power of his office, including his appointments with the Public Utilities Commission, to derail the project.

The tide has turned since Gov. Mills came to office, and the project is back on track. If it succeeds, it has the possibility of putting Maine in the center of a new industry.

Ocean wind power has been used for decades, but typically in shallow water with turbines mounted on towers that are driven into the ocean floor. The Maine project is developing floating concrete platforms that can be anchored in deep water, out of sight from land, where the wind is the strongest.

This technology could bring offshore wind power to parts of the world where it is not now possible.

The platforms could be manufactured in Maine, or built elsewhere using Maine-developed designs, supporting good-paying Maine jobs while expanding the use of renewable energy.

It would have been a terrible loss for the state if instead of just being delayed the floating ocean wind program had been scuttled during the LePage administration.

A transformative program like this cannot be completed during the term of one governor, one Legislature and one PUC. It was a mistake to make it a partisan issue that gains or loses support every time institutions change hands.

It took long-term vision and steady commitment to get us as far as we have come with ocean wind, and it will take more of both to bring it across the finish line.


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