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Maine Adopts New Law to Advance Offshore Wind - Seeks to Protect Fishing Industry

First published in Landings, September 2023

On July 27, LD 1895 An Act Regarding the Procurement of Energy from Offshore Wind Resources became law. This law aims to achieve 3,000 megawatts (3 GW) of installed offshore wind by 2040. According to Governor Mills, the new law allows for critical port development, creates opportunity for Maine workers and businesses in the emerging offshore wind industry, and protects critical lobstering areas from offshore wind development. Maine is the seventh U.S. state to establish a competitive offshore wind energy solicitation process.

Kristan Porter is the President of the Maine Lobstermen's Association

LD 1895 met with strong opposition from many in Maine’s fishing industry. “The MLA opposes LD 1895 to procure energy from offshore wind resources,” testified Kristan Porter, President of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA). “With 20,000 individuals employed aboard Maine’s fishing vessels or directly in the seafood supply chain, the productive and fragile waters of the Gulf of Maine should not be used as testing ground for new offshore wind technology or to site large industrial wind farms.”

While the fishing industry was not successful in stopping the passage of this bill, many of the industry’s concerns were heard. The complex bill was amended several times before the Governor signed it. The new law includes provisions to avoid or minimize impacts of offshore wind development on marine wildlife, fisheries and Maine’s coastal communities. It requires developers to invest in research “to better understand how offshore wind power projects can coexist with minimal impact to existing ocean users, wildlife, fisheries and the marine environment” and supports “responsibly sited offshore wind power projects with generation facilities located in areas outside of the area of the Gulf of Maine where the majority of lobster fishing or other significant commercial fishing occurs.”

The state of Maine has been exploring offshore wind opportunities since 2008 when the Ocean Energy Task Force was established under the Baldacci Administration. The University of Maine launched a prototype floating offshore wind turbine off Castine in 2013. During this time, Statoil (now Equinor) explored developing an offshore wind pilot project in the waters offshore Boothbay but ultimately withdrew its plan. The University of Maine continues to pursue development of floating platforms for offshore wind turbines.

Maine Aqua Ventus’ 1/8th scale floating wind turbine operated successfully off Castine for more than a year. MAV photo.

In 2020, the Mills Administration began pursuing its plan to develop a floating offshore wind research array of up to 12 turbines in waters off southern Maine. The state submitted its lease application to BOEM in October 2021 and currently is awaiting a decision. The Mills Administration published an Offshore Wind Roadmap in February 2023 detailing strategies for Maine to realize economic, energy, and climate benefits from offshore wind.

The new law does not create a specific requirement to develop floating offshore wind technology; Maine could procure offshore wind energy from fixed-wind turbines. This is a departure from earlier versions of the procurement bill.

The new law directs the Governor's Energy Office (GEO) to establish a schedule for the competitive solicitation of offshore wind projects and develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) to meet the state’s goal to develop 3 GW of offshore wind by 2040. By January 2026 (or three months after the first BOEM auction for offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Maine), the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must issue an RFP from developers for projects not less than 600 MW for cost-competitive commercial-scale developments.

The PUC must ensure that selected projects will result in contracts that are cost-effective for ratepayers, considering potential economic, environmental, and other benefits to ratepayers. The PUC is further directed to prioritize projects that “have generation facilities located outside of Lobster Management Area 1.” The PUC must also prioritize projects that demonstrate an ability to provide in-state economic benefits, provide ratepayer benefits, support fair labor practices, provide employment and contracting opportunities for federally recognized Indian tribes, workers from disadvantaged communities, and certified businesses.

The new law further directs the Office of Tax Policy to explore development of a “Fishing Community Protection Tax Incentive Program” and report its findings back to the Legislature by February 2024. The program should include a tax credit of up to $16 million annually for up to 20 years for qualified investors in offshore wind power projects. The tax credit will be designed to incentivize siting wind projects outside of LMA 1, protect ratepayers from additional costs associated with siting projects outside of LMA 1, and increase Maine’s competitiveness in securing offshore wind projects and benefits.

Offshore wind development proposals must include a “Fishing Communities Investment Plan” to provide an annual investment in fishing communities, which may include loans, grants, and subsidized interest rates to support fishermen and fishing-related businesses. Developers must also commit to paying at least $5,000 per megawatt of offshore wind power to the Offshore Wind Research Consortium Fund. The Fund’s research investment will include fisheries research, environmental and wildlife research, monitoring and mitigation, and conservation.

The new law also authorizes the PUC to participate in regional or state-specific transmission procurement and conduct competitive solicitations for the development and construction of offshore wind energy transmission or related infrastructure projects. The PUC may consider proposals for projects that serve to upgrade the existing grid, extend the grid closer to offshore wind projects, upgrade optimal landfall approaches, or provide an interconnection between offshore wind substations.

Correction: The September issue of Landings incorrectly reported that all Senate Democrats supported LD 1895. Senator Grohoski and five House Democrats, Representatives Crafts, Hepler, Milliken, Perry, and Stover opposed the bill. We apologize for the error.

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