Three wind-power turbines, mounted to the bottom of Block Island Sound in Rhode Island, are shown in this 2016 file photo. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Proposed legislation unveiled Tuesday would call for the purchase of offshore wind-generated electricity in amounts that could supply every home in the state, and then some.

Wind turbines that would float in the Gulf of Maine are still in development and not yet a reality. But a coalition of conservation and labor advocates have high hopes for the bill, which would require the Public Utilities Commission to procure 2.8 gigawatts of wind energy over the next 12 years, enough output for 980,000 homes. The PUC has overseen similar procurements ordered by the Legislature, including those for solar projects.

Supporters say passing the proposed law would make Maine a leader in floating offshore wind power and attract billions of dollars in private investment. 

“Powering the region with offshore wind will provide the clean energy we need to stabilize electricity prices and meet Maine’s ambitious climate goals,” said Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, co-chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “This bill will make sure we’re acting on the timeline necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, while ensuring strong standards for environment, labor and equity.”

Other supporters include the University of Maine, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon and the Maine State Building & Construction Trade Council.

It was unclear Tuesday whether Gov. Janet Mills will endorse the proposal as it stands. Her energy director, Dan Burgess, praised the potential for offshore wind, while noting the need to balance its development with the sustainability of Maine’s fishing industry and the Gulf of Maine’s environment.


“With a procurement process offering an opportunity to determine the most responsible approaches to how offshore wind energy will emerge in Maine over coming years,” Burgess said in a statement, “we look forward to working with the Legislature on this bill, and all proposals that seek to reduce energy costs for Maine people, increase our energy independence, grow our economy and curb greenhouse gas emissions.”

The effort comes as the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is undergoing a years-long review to determine the most appropriate locations for floating offshore wind turbines in federal ocean waters. It plans to conduct a lease sale in 2024.

Last week, the agency advanced the state’s application to locate 10 to 12 floating turbines for a research array in a 9,700-acre lease area in federal waters, roughly 45 miles east of Portland.

Offshore wind is seen as having great potential for New England’s electric grid because winds in the Gulf of Maine peak in the winter, when Maine uses a lot of energy for heat.


Offshore wind farms have been operating in Europe for more than 30 years, but are now being developed off the East Coast of the U.S. Development reflects a priority for the Biden administration, but faces opposition from some fishing and marine conservation interests.


Projects already are underway or pending off Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. Those ventures are being built on the outer continental shelf with turbines mounted on massive steel tubes sunk into the shallow seabed. The projects use technology pioneered over decades in Europe.

But wind farms in the deeper Gulf of Maine would feature turbines set on floating platforms held in place by cables and anchors. They would be located farther offshore. This is a new and evolving technology, and a patented platform design has been pursued over the past decade at the University of Maine, most recently with its commercial partner, New England Aqua Ventus.

The partnership is working on long-delayed plans to deploy a single test turbine in state waters off Monhegan, a venture that has drawn opposition from lobster and fishing interests.

An affiliate of New England Aqua Ventus, called Pine Tree Offshore Wind, also is seeking to build a larger research array in federally leased waters. That’s the project advanced last week by the ocean management bureau. The array would have a capacity of 144 megawatts and could see commercial operation in 2028.

A handful of floating wind farms have been built around the world.

The first single unit was installed off Norway in 2009, by the Norwegian energy company known then as Statoil. It later proposed a pilot wind farm off the Maine coast, but left the state in 2013 after opposition from former Gov. Paul LePage. The company later pursued its technology in Scotland, launching the Hywind project in 2017.


The world’s third and fourth floating projects became operational in 2020, off Portugal, and 2021, off Scotland. The world’s largest farm came on online recently in Norway, Hywind Tampen. It has seven turbines and a capacity of 60 megawatts, and was built by the Norwegian company now called Equinor.

In the United States, the federal government last month held its first auction of leases to develop commercial-scale floating wind farms, in deep water off California. The auction attracted $757 million in bids, mostly from European energy companies.

It’s in this globally competitive environment that Maine is seeking to carve out a niche with its homegrown turbine platforms.

Supporters say experience elsewhere shows that the best way for Maine to capture the economic and equity benefits of new clean energy, including supply chain investments, port improvements, and workforce development, is by setting a schedule of competitive procurements like those proposed in the bill.

A regional clean energy group said Wednesday the bill will send a signal to developers.

“Offshore wind technology for deepwater locations is advancing at a rapid pace,” said Francis Pullaro, executive director of RENEW Northeast. “The opportunities for growth in this sector and increasing its use in more locations are expanding rapidly. This legislation makes sure Maine will leap to the forefront for reaping the benefits of offshore wind.”

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