Federal officials on Tuesday offered Maine a lease to research offshore wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine, moving the state closer to establishing a presence in the budding zero-carbon energy industry.

The site is southeast of Portland, 28 nautical miles off the coast. If developed, it will include up to 12 floating offshore wind turbines generating up to 144 megawatts of renewable energy, or enough to power as many as 144,000 average homes, according to ISO-New England, the region’s grid operator.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the lease, site assessment and related activities would have no significant impact on the environment. As a result, the agency is not required to prepare an environmental impact statement.

Maine requested the research lease in 2021 to study floating offshore wind energy technology and turbine deployment.

The site is 15.2 square miles – a fraction of the 2 million-acre location the bureau selected in March for a commercial floating offshore wind project. That site is about 23 miles to 92 miles off the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The new research site intends to use floating concrete platforms designed by the University of Maine.


“Offshore wind offers our state a tremendous opportunity to harness abundant clean energy in our own backyard, to create good-paying jobs and drive economic development, and to reduce our over-reliance on fossil fuels and fight climate change,” Gov. Janet Mills said.

The state has 30 days to accept or reject the lease, review technical and legal requirements or seek changes. Mills said her administration will review the lease in the “coming weeks.”

Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the research array is the “next step in putting Maine on the map” for a floating offshore wind industry that will create jobs, protect natural resources, and provide Maine and the region with clean energy.

Federal approval is significant because if the project eventually goes through, it will result in what probably is the first floating offshore array of wind turbines in the U.S., he said. It also will establish Maine as a leader in developing the offshore wind industry and provide the state, project developers, researchers and others with valuable information to build out offshore wind, Shapiro said.

This graphic, published in a Feb. 2023 state report, shows various fixed-bottom and floating foundations that can be used to anchor offshore wind turbines. The federal government granted Maine a lease for a site in the ocean where researchers can study the efficacy of floating turbines with semisubmersible concrete hulls designed by University of Maine researchers. Courtesy of DHI, via Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap

In a 2021 study reviewing Sears Island for an offshore wind facility, the Maine Department of Transportation said the research area in the Gulf of Maine “will be one of the first steps” in achieving the state’s renewable energy goals of 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Floating wind turbine bases will leverage improvements in technology and help reduce production costs over the coming decade, the study said, noting that the floating offshore wind market is in its early stages. It recommended a phased approach to construction, allowing a terminal to begin operations with minimal requirements for a demonstration-sized project and grow over time to support a full commercial-scale wind farm.


Diamond Offshore Wind, a Boston energy company that’s partnering on the research array, said federal approval is an important step in advance of commercial scale development in the Gulf of Maine and would be the first project to use an offshore wind port in Searsport. The Mills administration announced in February that Sears Island is the state’s preferred site and it’s seeking $456 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the project.

Diamond CEO Chris Wissemann said the next step is for the Public Utilities Commission to finalize power purchase agreements with Central Maine Power and Versant Power, and efforts will then turn to the port development.

When the bureau announced the larger, 2 million acre site in March, it generally won praise, with some calls for greater protection of habitats and fishing areas. The agency said that area is 80% smaller than its initially planned wind energy area after consulting with tribes, local residents, the fishing community and others.

President Biden has set a goal of building 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. But rising interest rates, supply shortages and other problems have forced developers to pull the plug on several offshore wind projects in New Jersey and New York. Backers of offshore wind say the setbacks are temporary and that long-term climate goals will require wind power to be a key part of zero-carbon energy projects.

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