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Mills' Energy Office Releases Preferred Site For 16-Square Mile Offshore Wind Farm

Governor's Energy Office of Maine
The energy office of Gov. Janet Mills has announced its preferred site for a 16-square-mile offshore wind farm.

Governor Janet Mills’ energy office has just released its preferred site for a 16-square mile offshore wind farm of up to a dozen turbines. Private developers would construct and operate the facility, which would use a unique floating-platforms system developed at the University of Maine.

The site lies in federal waters roughly 35-to-40 miles south of Bremen, and somewhat closer to Monhegan Island. Mills wants to seek a federal "research lease" authorizing the project. Research on the technology’s effects on ecosystems and fisheries is the stated goal. Maine ratepayers would provide the funding through their bills.

The proposal is being praised by renewable energy advocates and businesses, and some conservation groups, but is almost universally opposed by the state's lobster industry. The energy office is holding an informational webinar Tuesday afternoon.

"Any sort of large development is going to have an impact," says Sarah Haggerty, a conservation biologist at Maine Audubon. "They did a great job of reaching out to potential stakeholders to get feedback to try to eliminate as much of that negative feedback as possible."

In an email, Friendship lobsterman Dustin Delano says after his first look at the document, he is disappointed. He says the preferred area appears to be in waters where he fishes, and near an area where federal regulators are considering periodic fishing closures to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.

“It looks like Zones E and D as expected will suffer more loss of bottom on top of the huge whale closure,” Delano said. “I’m not sure what brought them to where they are, but perhaps we’ll find out tomorrow night. “

In the document released Monday, the Governor’s Energy Office says it may adjust the final location after public comment: “GEO will request a lease for approximately 16-square-miles that allows for flexibility for the final turbine location and layout. Those future decisions will be informed by stakeholder input and based on how to maximize research opportunities while minimizing impacts to resources, consideration of existing activities and uses in the area, and a better understanding of bathymetry after additional survey work is completed.”

An advocate for Maine’s groundfishermen praised the Department of Marine Resources — which advised the Governor’s Energy Office — for hard work to find an area that would have the fewest impacts. But in an email, Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, also raised concerns that while the chosen site, with its muddy bottom, might be little-used by the lobster industry, other fishermen would lose out.

“Unfortunately, when you use effort data in a state dominated by lobster to cite offshore development, the other fisheries in Maine tend to get overshadowed,” he said. “Groundfish, tuna, herring, and monkfish fishermen will all be disproportionately impacted by this location and we hope [the Governor's Energy Office] will now take the time to directly reach out to, and work with, those fishing families who rely on this area to make a living to ensure the smallest possible community impact."

Updated: July 13, 2021 at 12:41 PM EDT
This post was updated to include reaction from a conservation group.
Updated: July 13, 2021 at 7:40 AM EDT
This post was updated to include reaction from a groundfishermen group.
A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.