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Maine has applied for a federal lease for an offshore wind project. It’s a milestone in Mills’ plan to jump-start the industry

Offshore Wind
Robert F. Bukaty
This Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo shows the country's first floating wind turbine works off the coast of Castine, Maine.

A big milestone today for Gov. Janet Mills' plan to jump-start an offshore wind energy industry in Maine: She's submitted to federal regulators a proposal for a 15-square mile area off Maine's mid-coast where up to 12 floating turbines might be sited.

Mills announced almost a year ago that she wanted Maine to take the lead in the deployment of floating platform tech by asking the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to approve a special research lease for a site in federal waters.

She'd originally planned to submit a lease proposal by this spring, but after deeply-skeptical fishermen complained that the process was being rushed she agreed to take more time. The director of the Governor's Energy Office, Dan Burgess, says the final site proposal attempts to meet a number of basic requirements.

"To be at least 20 miles from shore, to be in a minimum depth of about 150 feet, to be in certain mud or gravel bottom, to minimize conflict with fishing grounds and to avoid high-traffic areas, and then to be in an area to allow for interconnection points," Burgess says.

Maine BOEM Application Map.jpg
Office of Gov. Janet Mills
A map of the location Gov. Janet Mills is proposing for a 15-square-mile offshore wind site.

The project would connect to the mainland at existing electricity substations in Yarmouth or Wiscasset. It would be developed by a consortium that includes the University of Maine and international wind developers, and paid for by Maine electricity consumers.

Burgess says the research goals will center on how to minimize negative effects on offshore ecosystems and Maine's fishing industries. Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association says the industry wants to see a comprehensive research plan created and funded as part of the application process.

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.