A beach on the northwestern side of Sears Island shows the proximity to Mack Point, right. The energy company that owns Mack Point wants the state to locate its offshore wind port there instead of the largely undeveloped Sears Island. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

An energy and port services company is pitching its Mack Point industrial property as a location for an offshore wind port, offering it as an alternative to the site on nearby Sears Island that is preferred by the state but opposed by local residents.

Sprague Operating Resources LLC on Thursday released details of its plan for Maine’s offshore wind project in Searsport. It says its site will be less costly than the Sears Island location and spare that area the disruption caused by port construction, a key issue that locals have criticized. The plan proposes a launching dock, assembly area for wind turbines before they’re dispatched to the Gulf of Maine and a recently updated rail yard.

“We can’t get the state to look at this plan seriously,” said James Therriault, vice president of materials handling at Sprague.

The Mills administration says Sears Island is the best choice for an offshore wind port because the site is owned by the state, saving money that would otherwise be required to lease another location, and is designated for port development.

State officials also have said that the Sears Island site would not require dredging, unlike at Mack Point. But Therriault said Mack Point has been dredged to a depth that can accept ships. “We’ll take advantage of depth that’s already there,” he said.

Sprague says its Mack Point Terminal offers 100 acres separate from current activities, a base launching dock allowing the use of a semi-submersible barge or Tug Dock device – next-generation equipment used to install offshore wind platforms – and a second large vessel dock for Sprague’s bulk and liquid operations that can also serve as a backup dock.


“Sprague believes it’s in the best interests of Mainers to urge the state to fully analyze the costs, timings and impacts of Sprague’s alternative design,” Therriault said. “We believe this alternative achieves the goal of minimizing impacts on natural and working lands, while reducing overall cost and providing all the same operational and vessel functionality.”

In response to Sprague’s proposal, the state Department of Transportation said Mack Point has “physical and logistical constraints.” The agency says the area would require a “significant” need for dredging and greater costs to Maine taxpayers for leasing and construction, resulting in a “more expensive and inferior port facility for Maine compared to Sears Island.”

“What are those constraints?” asked Rolf Olsen, vice president of Friends of Sears Island, a volunteer, nonprofit organization that manages a conservation area on the island. He opposes the state’s proposal and favors Mack Point.

State officials use the “same generalities” as they have before, he said. “I don’t see anything new here.”

DOT officials said Sears Island is “one of the best sites for a deep-water port on the Eastern Seaboard, which is why a portion of the island has been reserved for port development for many years.”

“By all available information, analysis and stakeholder input, Sears Island is the most feasible and cost-effective location for an offshore wind port,” the state said.


The state’s selection of Sears Island as its preferred site “followed two years of evaluation, local discussions and assessment of all other port options – including Mack Point,” the DOT said.

Gov. Janet Mills announced in February the state’s preferred site at Sears Island. The selection is subject to state and federal permitting and will be analyzed in comparison to Mack Point.

Olsen said redeveloping Mack Point, “which has thrived as an industrial site for more than a century” would be less disruptive than building a port on Sears Island.

The state, he said is “single-mindedly going for Sears Island.”

An artist’s rendering of Sprague’s proposal for the Maine offshore wind port to be located at the company’s Mack Point site in Searsport. Courtesy of Sprague

The Mills administration said last month that it’s seeking $456 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build the wind port at Sears Island. Opponents of the Sears Island site say the state is bypassing Mack Point even before a study analyzing both sites has been concluded.

“All we’re asking for is to objectively look at this study,” Therriault said.


While a few critics say wind energy is overrated and instead urge hydropower and nuclear energy, environmentalists say Maine must take advantage of offshore wind to help reach the state’s climate goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters also cite the economic benefits of creating jobs supporting the wind power industry.

Sprague, a privately held company headquartered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a subsidiary of Hartree Partners, a New York-based energy and commodities firm, is bidding for the wind port to add to its renewable energy work, Therriault said.

Sprague spends $8 million to $10 million a year to keep its Mack Point operations open for vendors, suppliers and other business, he said. If it ultimately wins the wind port site, Sprague would not operate it, but would earn a “relatively small lease payment” of $4 million to $6 million annually, Therriault said.

“It would not be a huge financial boon to Sprague Energy,” he said.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story