Gov. Mills’ renewable-energy leadership provides a critical opportunity for Maine to rapidly decarbonize our energy consumption by keeping the historic Maine promise of floating offshore wind.

The University of Maine’s 9,000-pound prototype floating wind turbine off the coast of Castine in 2013. Two of Gov. Mills’ initiatives – one to finish the Monhegan pilot offshore wind project, and the other to build an offshore wind research array 20 to 40 miles into the Gulf – give Maine an opportunity to build an international industry. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press, File

As Maine’s public advocate, charged with representing the interests of Maine utility consumers, I strongly support Gov. Mills’ initiatives to complete the Monhegan demonstration floating offshore wind project, and to build a 9-12 turbine floating offshore wind research array 20 to 40 miles into the Gulf of Maine to test ways to protect fisheries, lobstering and the ecosystem from imprudent offshore wind development. These initiatives – amplified by Gov. Mills’ exploration of use of Searsport facilities to construct and launch offshore wind – give Maine a real opportunity to lead the development of floating offshore wind and to build an international industry in Maine, built by Maine workers.

Why does your public advocate enthusiastically support Maine’s floating offshore wind initiatives? First, this is the right course to protect Maine consumers from higher costs in the long term, safeguard our coastal communities from rising sea levels and mitigate the rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine. Second, I have been privileged to help three governors, several Legislatures and the Public Utilities Commission create Maine’s floating offshore wind promise. The promise is real, and we must fulfill the promise.

Fossil fuels are volatile in price, pollute our air and drive global warming. Maine consumes more fossil fuel per capita than any other of the lower 48 states. Sixty percent of our homes heat with oil; the national average is 5.6 percent. Our population is the most dispersed in the nation, driving higher vehicle miles. These startling facts demand a conversion to beneficial electrification, the substitution of renewable electricity over time for fossil fuel uses. General Motors just announced that it’s phasing out gas and diesel vehicle sales by 2035. The future is clear.

Floating offshore wind is a key to this transition for Maine. The Gulf of Maine has the strongest and most reliable winds in the nation, and they are best in colder months when our heating needs are greatest. Floating offshore wind platforms are essential because the Gulf waters are too deep for foundations. Current offshore wind projects produce power some 65 percent of all hours, compared to Maine solar at 18 percent and onshore wind at 35 percent. This greater reliability will ensure long-term, stable energy costs as we transition from fossil fuels. Let’s build the University of Maine’s technology here, just as Maine led all other states in shipbuilding for decades.

My participation in floating offshore wind since 2006 has convinced me and many other public officials to make, and now to achieve, Maine’s floating offshore wind promise. I served on then-Gov. John Baldacci’s Ocean Energy Task Force in 2008-09, then sponsored the resulting Ocean Energy Act in 2009, which placed in statute the goal of building an international floating offshore wind industry in Maine. The task force was prescient, citing Maine’s overreliance on fossil fuels and the need to work hard for a decade or more to launch floating offshore wind. But we still urged action, noting, “If we wait until a catastrophe is upon us, we’ll be starting from scratch and delay will be our undoing.” The enacted legislation won broad stakeholder support, including from the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

In 2013, I co-sponsored the Omnibus Energy Act, directing the PUC to hold a second request for proposal for offshore wind, as supported by then-Gov. Paul LePage, that approved the present Monhegan New England Aqua Ventus Project. In 2019, as public advocate, I supported the resolve requiring PUC approval of the power-purchase agreement for the Monhegan Project, and, as importantly, mandating extensive measures to ensure use of Maine firms, workers, locations and education programs in that project. Those mandates are key to building the international floating offshore wind hub in Maine.

These responsibilities allowed me to test ideas, plans and assumptions to be sure Maine’s floating offshore wind promise is real and should be kept. I remain convinced this is a terrific opportunity for Maine.

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