Offshore wind power could be the power source for Maine’s clean energy future. Winds blowing off the Maine coast could provide 35.9 times that amount of electricity each year than the state currently uses, according to a report released today by Environment Maine. Even if Maine converted all activities currently powered by gasoline, natural gas and other fossil fuels (like transportation and home heating) to electricity, the energy provided by offshore wind turbines could still produce 13.7 times as much power as they would use.
“We’re facing rising seas, intensifying storms, and old and new health threats because we’ve relied so long on dirty energy sources,” said Jacqueline Guyol, of Environment Maine. “But sitting right here next to us is the Atlantic Coast, and it’s a massive source of totally clean power. Let’s just say ‘thank you, Mother Nature,’ and do what we should have done in the first place -- harness the wind.”
While offshore wind is a proven technology overseas, it has been slow to take off in the United States. To date, only one wind farm is operating in the U.S., off the coast of Rhode Island. Meanwhile, Europe hosts 4,100 offshore wind turbines that supply enough electricity to power more than 20 million homes each day. But more American offshore wind is on the horizon: There are now 13 leased offshore wind projects moving forward in the U.S., which could provide enough electricity to power approximately 5.2 million homes.
“Offshore wind presents a tremendous opportunity for Maine to grow its economy and decrease its dependence on polluting sources of energy,” said Sean Mahoney, Executive Vice-President of the Conservation Law Foundation. “Unfortunately, the LePage administration has done everything it could to hamstring seizing that opportunity, including driving away one of the world’s leading energy companies who was willing to make a multi-million dollar investment in Maine waters. Fortunately, the end is nigh for that administration and with the proper leadership, Maine can still take advantage of the enormous potential identified in this report. Properly siting offshore wind power projects to respect existing uses will be critical to their success.”
Deane Rykerson, State Representative from District 1 said: “Maine has been so endowed with its great resources of natural beauty, hardworking people, and hardworking energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has rated the Gulf of Maine with the best wind energy potential in all of the United States. As we look at the future of our interconnected energy dependence, this is the path forward to saving our planet from climate catastrophe. Right now is the time to start our new carbonfree future. Luckily, we know how to do this and we are getting better at using the vast power of wind to end our addiction to fossil fuels. Dedication and policy are all it takes to save our planet for our children and grandchildren.”
Advances in technology and declining costs, coupled with growing concern about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, has contributed to the recent momentum.
The turbines at the nation’s first offshore wind project in Rhode Island produce 30 times more electricity each year than the first offshore wind turbines installed in Denmark in the early 1990s.
According to the asset management firm Lazard, the overall cost of new offshore wind has declined by 25% in the last 5 years. Estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict the cost will decline by an additional 71 percent by 2040.
“This is not your father’s offshore wind,” said Jacqueline Guyol. “With improved technology and declining costs, harnessing the abundant, pollution-free energy off our coasts makes more sense than ever.”
Energy from offshore wind presents a special opportunity for Atlantic states. The Atlantic Coast, with its shallow waters and millions of people living close to shore, is especially well-suited for wind power. And because there are no fuel costs, offshore wind power pays for itself in the long term. But a strong commitment from state policy-makers is critical, because adopting this clean energy source will require significant upfront investment in manufacturing and erecting the wind turbines and laying transmission lines.
Recognizing this, governors and other state officials in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut have established ambitious but feasible targets. If these cumulative targets are met, offshore wind will provide enough electricity to power 3 million homes.
"Atlantic coastal states use more than a quarter of the nation’s energy,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. "Offshore wind is the ideal resource for these states -- it’s clean, it’s renewable, and it’s conveniently located near our biggest cities.”
“We’re beginning to see signs of a race to the top on offshore wind, as states adopt increasingly bigger targets,” said Jacqueline Guyol. “We need our next governor and other state leaders to make a commitment to offshore wind power so that Maine doesn’t fall behind.