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Mills' Administration Applies for Offshore Wind Lease

On October 1, Governor Janet Mill’s Energy Office (GEO) submitted its application to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to lease a 15.2-square-mile area offshore in the Gulf of Maine to construct and operate a commercial floating offshore wind research array.

The requested offshore wind lease site area is located 29 miles from Cape Small in Sagadahoc County, 23 miles from Monhegan Island, and 45 miles from Portland.

Mills announced in November 2020 her intent to construct and operate a research array of 12 or fewer floating wind turbines using technology developed at the University of Maine. The goals of the research array are to advance the University’s floating turbine technology and to conduct research into how floating wind turbines interact with Maine’s marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and other elements.

According to the GEO lease application to BOEM, “The scale of the Research Array provides an opportunity to evaluate potential interactions with commercial projects, including testing various fishing activity between turbines and in transit lanes. The number of wind turbines needs to be large enough to simulate some aspects of commercial scale projects and their interactions with fisheries, marine mammals, avian species, and the marine environment, all unique to the GOM.”

The Mills administration will partner with New England Aqua Ventus (NEAV) —a joint venture of Diamond Offshore Wind, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation, and RWE Renewables—to develop the research array. New England Aqua Ventus is in the process of constructing and operating a single turbine floating wind pilot project in state waters off Monhegan Island with support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

FILE - This Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo shows the University of Maine's prototype wind turbine generator off the coast of Castine, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

While the concept of an offshore wind commercial research array was put forward by the Mills Administration, Maine’s plan to develop a 100 MW offshore floating wind farm has been in the works since 2013. The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) included a provision in the Maine Aqua Ventus (MAV) 2013 contract for the Monhegan test site that it pursue a future develop a 100 MW offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Maine. This contract was renewed with New England Aqua Ventus, MAV’s successor, in 2019, requiring the Monhegan test site developer to develop “a business case for the development and construction of an offshore wind farm of no less than 100 MW in the Gulf of Maine and, as may be commercially reasonable, using qualified businesses or other entities located and operating in Maine.”

The siting of the cables from the research array to the mainland has not been determined. The application notes that “The Research Array Site … will include the designation of two high voltage substations that are the potential grid connection locations. No subsea substations are planned for this project. Both substations are connected to 345-kilovolt lines and have more than enough potential to accommodate the capacity of a Research Array. The final grid connection location will be determined later in the development process and will be informed by grid studies that will determine costs of interconnecting, cable landing logistics, permitting, real estate considerations, local community engagement, and cable route geophysical and geotechnical investigations. The route of eventual cables, inter array and export, will be determined after cable route surveys are completed.”

For more information on Maine's wind development, please see their website.

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