To see the article as it appears in print, please load the pdf file HERE.
Maine Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 1895, a bill to advance offshore wind energy in the state, procuring 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2040. This is an important development that could supply a huge amount of electricity. Looking back, it is also a historic development because of the obstacles that had to be overcome to get it passed and signed.
The first of these was clearly known from the very start. Developing offshore wind power in Maine had a severe problem because development sites in the Gulf of Maine all had waters too deep for standard installations with masts standing on the ocean floor. This issue came up in a 2013 post at the Green Energy Times’ website, which was a repost of an article from the Department of Energy, “Maine Project Launches First Grid-Connected Offshore Wind Turbine in the U.S.” (https://bit.ly/Maine_wind_1) The article dealt with a University of Maine demonstration project using a floating wind turbine.
Another problem that had to be overcome was objections by people and businesses engaged in lobster fishing. They wanted their economic interests and the natural resources they depended on to get protection in any legislation promoting offshore wind energy. Their request was addressed in the law.
Yet another problem was that Governor Mills herself would not accept the law as it was originally written. It made possible addressing issues of environment and climate change as she had hoped they would be, but in the form it first reached her desk, it had provisions that would have made it impossible for many Maine workers to get employment on the offshore projects. The result was that the first attempt to pass the bill was vetoed by a woman who was keenly interested in its primary intentions. The work done by the governor was detailed by a press release from her office, “Governor Mills Signs Bill to Create Jobs, Advance Clean Energy and Fight Climate Change Through Responsible Offshore Wind.” (https://bit.ly/Maine_wind_2)
As it was finally passed and signed, LD 1895 should enable construction of offshore wind farms that could supply half of the electricity needed by the state of Maine in 2040. Given the work that has already been done, we might hope things would get easier. Unfortunately, we cannot assume that much.
There are still obstacles to overcome. There is still a lot of work setting up the sites that can be auctioned off, getting the U.S. government agencies to agree to the details of the work, and do the auctions required. After that, the auction winners have to install the turbines and get them properly connected to the grid. That has all been anticipated, however.
Unanticipated obstacles have shown up as unexpected costs due to inflation and supply problems. The cost of wind power has been declining rapidly, but at present, the issue is out of hand. According to an article at OilPrice.com, the cost of U.S. offshore wind power construction has risen 57% since 2021. Due to cost and supply issues, Iberdrola decided to get out of a contract for an offshore wind farm in Massachusetts, agreeing to pay $48 million in fines (https://bit.ly/Maine_wind_3).
We should recall that the 2040 goal is still many years off, however, and note that many things will happen in that time. The cost of wind turbine construction has been on a predictable learning curve, going down, and that is likely to continue after unusual conditions pass. One way or the other, we must deal with the situations we find, and hope that progress may continue.
In the meantime, we congratulate the people who have been working so hard in Maine for the work they have done. And we wish them good luck for the future.
University of Maine’s 20-kilowatt grid-tied offshore wind turbine in a 2013 demonstration off Castine, Maine. (Jplourde umaine, CC-BY-SA 4.0, https://bit.ly/CC-by-SA-4-0)