Jan. 18—The potential use of wind turbines off the coast of Maine to generate electricity has drawn scientific and commercial interest for at least a decade — and now the federal government is taking a next step to determine where those turbines might go.
The U.S. Department of the Interior last August issued a formal request-of-interest to gauge the potential market for wind-energy leases within about 13.7 million acres of the Gulf of Maine. The department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has scaled this site down to a "draft call area" of 9.9 million acres, and now is looking to obtain public feedback on leasing the waters for commercial wind-power production.
The bureau will hold a meeting in Portland on Thursday to receive input from marine businesses, fishermen and other ocean users about the location and size of the area. The meeting is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn By the Bay, 88 Spring St., and the agenda and more information can be found here.
Thursday's meeting is the last of three in New England, and a prelude to a planned commercial lease sale for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine in 2024.
Offshore wind development is a priority for the Biden administration, but faces opposition from some fishing and marine conservation interests.
Projects already are underway or pending off Massachusetts and New York. Those ventures are being built on the outer continental shelf with turbines mounted on massive steel tubes sunk into the shallow seabed. They use technology pioneered over decades in Europe.
But wind farms in the deeper Gulf of Maine would feature turbines set on floating platforms held in place by cables and anchors. They would be located farther offshore. This is a new and evolving technology, and a patented platform design has been pursued over the past decade at the University of Maine, most recently with its commercial partner, New England Aqua Ventus.
The partnership is working on long-delayed plans to deploy a single test turbine in state waters off Monhegan, a venture that has drawn opposition from lobster and fishing interests.
An affiliate of New England Aqua Ventus, called Pine Tree Offshore Wind, also is seeking to build a larger research array in federally leased waters 45 miles east of Portland. The array would consist of fewer than 12 floating turbines with a capacity of 144 megawatts. The project could see commercial operation in 2028.
Last month, the federal government held its first auction of leases to develop commercial-scale floating wind farms, in deep water off California. The auction attracted $757 million in bids, mostly from European energy companies.