Winds of Change, Pt. 1: How offshore wind will impact Maine’s economy, energy

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:42 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Offshore wind is coming to the Gulf of Maine.

It’s part of a push from state and federal government to develop renewable energy.

But how soon will the wind hit the water - and how will it benefit Mainers?

Details on the state’s vision in part one of a special report: “Winds of Change.”

The winds blowing off the Gulf of Maine are strong, and consistent. It’s gotten some thinking - what if there was a way to use this resource to benefit the whole state?

That’s only part of the premise outlined in Gov. Janet Mills’ Offshore Wind Roadmap - a document that spells plans for hundreds of wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine.

“We are striving for a balance that includes moving away from fossil fuels, continuing to support existing ocean industries and also providing additional economic opportunities throughout the state,” Stephanie Watson, the offshore wind program manager at the Governor’s Energy Office, said.

Offshore wind is just one way Maine is striving to meet its goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2050 - along with solar, onshore wind and storage.

Dr. Amrit Verma, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, is involved in the turbines’ mechanical engineering, and says the university is an industry leader.

“The research that we are currently doing is going to make possible this goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030,” Verma said.

UMaine deployed the first floating wind turbine in North America nine years ago, and Verma says the technology will become the standard in the U.S.

“Offshore wind is really something that’s going to boost our economy and industry,” Verma said. “There are several companies that are looking to hire new students.

“There are challenges, but at the same time, I would say if we work on these challenges together, we will be able to really benefit from the industry because this is really the future of the U.S., I would say, in terms of renewable industry,” Verma added.

The Governor’s Energy Office says wind makes economic and environmental sense for Maine.

“We send $4 billion a year of our hard-earned money out of the state to import those polluting fossil fuels,” Watson said. “That is a dynamic that we definitely need to change.”

As questions and challenges persist, Verma says collaboration is key.

“We have all sorts of collaboration that goes through it,” Verma said. “We’re not really looking at a system from just an engineering standpoint - we are looking at, ‘OK, how is this offshore wind farm going to interact with the ecosystem around it?’”

The million-dollar question that determines if this project floats - or sinks.

Maine’s fisheries are a billion-dollar industry and could be impacted by offshore wind development.

The state has pledged to “minimize disruptions to wildlife and fisheries wherever possible,” but scientists acknowledge some impacts of offshore wind remain unknown.

We’ll hear the perspective from Maine fishermen in part two of this special report Wednesday on TV5 News.