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Testing underway on Sears Island as potential offshore wind development hub

Biden Offshore Wind
Rodrique Ngowi
AP file
Deepwater Wind's turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I., on Aug. 23, 2019.

Work is underway to test the first of two sites as a potential hub for wind energy development off Maine's coast.

Gov. Janet Mills directed the Maine Department of Transportation to explore the midcoast town of Searsport. A study done last year pointed to a portion of state-owned land on Sears Island and also nearby Mack Point as potential site options.

Crews have begun cutting trees and clearing a path on the island for geotechnical drilling and testing, said Matt Burns, executive director of the Maine Port Authority.

Testing will eventually happen at the Mack Point terminal as well, he said.

"We want to collect this data and really be able to look at the sites side by side, compare the pros and cons and distill that data that's actually digestible by a group that could look at it objectively," Burns said.

Rolf Olsen, vice president of Friends of Sears Island, said he supports Searsport as a potential hub for wind energy development but believes the island should be preserved for recreational purposes.

Mack Point terminal is already an industrial site and has served as a delivery point for land-based wind turbines.

"There's 50 years of history trying to develop Sears Island, and this is the latest iteration," Olsen said. "I'm in favor of wind energy, alternative energy, but do it on Mack Point, not Sears Island."

Burns said the Sears Island testing should be finished by the end of this month. There's no timeline for when the state might choose between these two sites or consider other alternatives, he added.

Maine wants to establish the nation's first offshore floating wind research array in the Gulf Maine, which it views as a key step in achieving its renewable goals of 80% by 2030.