Federal environmental officials announced Friday their selection of a 2 million-acre site off the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire for an offshore floating wind project. The site generally won praise, with some calls for greater protections of habitats and fishing areas.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the site, about 23 miles to 92 miles off the coast, is 80% smaller than its initially planned wind energy area after consulting with tribes, local residents, the fishing community and others.

Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the state is “balancing the needs of coastal communities and wildlife protection with the urgency to address climate change.”

The area avoids conflicts with lobster fishing, North Atlantic right whale habitat, and other fishing areas and habitats, and it also seeks to avoid most of the historical and present-day fishing grounds of the tribes, the bureau said.

A spokesman for the Wabanaki Alliance declined to discuss the announcement.

A group of fishing interests, labor unions and environmental organizations that sought a compromise in selecting the area said in October that they scored a victory with the bureau’s exclusion of nearly an entire fishing ground called Lobster Management Area 1.


But the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said that although the final site removed a lobster management area, another area where many endangered North Atlantic right whales are sighted is still included.

“MLA remains steadfast in its position that no area of the Gulf of Maine should be industrialized with offshore wind,” it said. “There are still too many unanswered questions about the impacts of offshore wind on the marine environment, commercial fishermen and our fishing heritage.”

A representative of the group did not respond to a request to elaborate on its position.

Gov. Janet Mills, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Rep. Chellie Pingree said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management heeded their concerns and those of Maine’s fishing communities. They urged the bureau to continue to engage with Maine’s fishing industry, coastal communities, tribal governments, and other maritime users and stakeholders.

“This decision preserves vital fishing grounds and seeks to minimize potential environmental and ecological impacts to the Gulf of Maine,” they said.

Sarah Haggerty, a conservation biologist and geographic information system manager with Maine Audubon, praised the federal bureau for siting the leases away from most “high-conflict wildlife areas.”


“We will pursue additional wildlife safeguards throughout the leasing process, but this announcement is a very important step in the right direction,” she said.

A lease auction is scheduled for later this year for the floating offshore wind projects. Researchers at the University of Maine are leading the development of the floating wind turbine technology.

The Biden administration has set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind energy by 2035. The final wind energy area has the potential to support generation of 32 gigawatts of zero carbon energy, surpassing current state goals of 10 gigawatts for Massachusetts and 3 gigawatts for Maine from offshore wind energy, the bureau said.

A power plant with a capacity of 1 gigawatt could power approximately 876,000 households for one year if they collectively use 10,000 kWh each, a typical amount, assuming the plant operates continuously during the year, according to the Carbon Collective, an energy investment adviser.


The bureau said it will publish a notice Monday in the Federal Register announcing its intent to prepare an environmental assessment of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing activities in the wind energy area. The notice will begin a 30-day public comment period.


The agency said it used an ecosystem-based ocean planning model designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that uses data on Gulf of Maine natural resources, ocean industries such as fisheries and energy production to identify areas with high wind energy resource potential and fewer potential impacts to other ocean users and sensitive environmental resources.

Since 2021, the Department of the Interior has approved the first six commercial-scale offshore wind energy projects in the United States. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has held four offshore wind lease auctions, which have brought in nearly $5.5 billion in high bids.

Mills announced last month the state’s selection of Sears Island in Penobscot Bay as its preferred site for the new hub for Maine’s floating offshore wind power industry. The site will be used to assemble turbines and other components that will be shipped to the Gulf of Maine.

The first commercial-scale offshore wind farm opened Thursday, with a 12-turbine operation 35 miles east of Montauk Point, New York.

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