Picture a band of floating wind turbines towering over the Gulf of Maine; steel anchors and cables securing their hulls to the ocean floor. The turbines would harness the generous winds of the Outer Continental Shelf and produce clean energy for New England’s population centers, where there is a growing appetite for stable electric power. This clean energy source is expected to generate surplus electricity, 36 times greater than Maine’s total demand.

By conducting an independent study, I learned that energy developers Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables can provide the expertise necessary for offshore wind deployment in Maine. The corporations are currently channeling investments worth $100 million to the joint venture, New England Aqua Ventus LLC, which intends to make modifications to the University of Maine’s turbine demonstration.

I am confident that if Mainers capitalize on research and development for this cutting-edge technology, they could potentially tap into the $70 billion investments projected to support offshore wind in the United States through 2030. According to the state’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy, offshore wind projects like Aqua Ventus could determine the trajectory of Maine’s energy future.

In addition to the financial benefits, offshore wind can bring Mainers closer to the state’s goal of adopting 80% clean energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050. Climate change mitigation is critically important to environments like the Gulf of Maine, which has been shaken by rising surface temperatures. In mid-August alone, temperatures were as high as 69.85 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. In an effort to alleviate this crisis, Gov. Janet Mills, Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are eager to explore offshore wind as a new frontier.

Perhaps not surprisingly, not all of those dependent on the Gulf welcome this consensus. Gov. Mills — who pitched for offshore wind research — faced early pushback from fishermen. It is sensible to consult fishermen before planting floating wind turbines on 16 miles of viable fishing grounds. Aware of these concerns, Mills seems to be taking precautions.

At a recent briefing, she said, “I believe Maine can lead the country in floating offshore wind technology, but it must be done in partnership with Maine’s fishermen to form a science-based mutual understanding of how best to design and operate floating wind turbines in the precious Gulf of Maine.”

Although equity is at the heart of Gov. Mill’s proposal, fishermen are questioning how far their participation will go as COVID-19 cases surge around the state. Representatives from the Maine Coast Fishermen Association are worried that the leasing process is moving too fast. They believe that the Governor’s Energy Office needs to decelerate Mill’s plans in order to address the concerns of the commercial fishing industry. Since wind turbine leases last for three decades on average, a rushed decision could cost them future access to fishing grounds.

While I am convinced by the prospects of offshore wind, I empathize with the fishing industry, a longstanding symbol of Maine’s heritage. The state of Maine will only reap the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy if leaders consult proximate marine businesses in order to harmonize conflicting interests.

Samara Nassor is majoring in Environmental Studies and Government & Legal Studies at Bowdoin College.

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