Bureau of Ocean Energy Management determines no competitive interest exists for State’s proposed research site in the Gulf of Maine, allowing plans for nation’s first research array dedicated to floating offshore wind to move forward.

January 19, 2023

On January 19, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a Determination of No Competitive Interest for a proposed research lease area offshore Maine. This decision follows BOEM’s Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI) in the Gulf of Maine, which was issued last August. BOEM’s determination means it will move forward with the State of Maine’s research application, which could be used to inform any future commercial offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine, as well as the deployment of floating offshore wind technology nationwide.

“This decision by BOEM is a positive step forward in Maine’s responsible pursuit of floating offshore wind research,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “The research array is the cornerstone of Maine’s judicious approach to floating offshore wind, which emphasizes cooperation and collaboration with Maine’s fishing industry and environmental community to conduct important research and testing of this new technology and evaluate its potential impacts on existing uses.”

The decision by the Federal agency allows the State’s application for a Federal research lease for the proposed site – which the State has identified as a 15.2-square-mile area of Federal waters of the Gulf of Maine some 45 miles offshore from Portland – to move forward. The final size and specific location of the research site will be determined by BOEM during its leasing review process.

More information, including a map of the RFCI area can be found on BOEM’s Gulf of Maine webpage.

The floating offshore wind research array is proposed to include 10-12 turbines on semi-submersible floating concrete platforms pioneered by the University of Maine. As the first project of its kind in the United States, the research array will foster cutting-edge research into how floating offshore wind interacts with the marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and more.

For more than a decade, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composite Center has designed and developed floating concrete hull technology for offshore wind turbines called VolturnUS, with the goal of creating a vibrant Maine-based floating offshore wind industry. Floating platforms are considered essential technology for deep-water offshore wind energy.

“We are excited to see this technology and innovation — a decade in the making with the leadership of the state’s R1 research university — be able to move forward to the next level,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, President of the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias, and Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation for the University of Maine System. “We appreciate the cutting-edge innovation of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, led by Habib Dagher, and all leadership and vision in Maine working to make offshore wind and economic development possible to improve the lives of Maine people.”

On October 1, 2021, BOEM received an application from the State of Maine for a research lease requesting 9,700 acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in a location more than 20 nautical miles off the Maine coast. If developed, the research site would consist of up to 12 floating offshore wind turbines capable of generating up to 144 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy.

In August 2022, consistent with its regulations, the Department of the Interior announced the RFCI as the first step in processing the State’s research lease application. Publication of the RFCI in the Federal Register on Aug. 19, 2022, initiated a 45-day public comment period which closed on Oct. 3, 2022. BOEM received complete submissions to the RFCI from two qualified entities. However, following a careful review of the submissions, BOEM concluded there was no competitive interest in the RFCI area due to concerns about commercial scale viability in the proposed research lease area.

The determination of no competitive interest in the RFCI area does not guarantee that the State of Maine will receive a research lease. The next steps for processing the research application include publishing a Determination of No Competitive Interest in the Federal Register and initiating an environmental review of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing activities associated with the research lease.

Earlier this month, BOEM released its draft area for potential commercial offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Maine and announced a series of public meetings on its planning process leading up to its proposed sale of commercial offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Maine in 2024, including a meeting in Portland on Thursday, January 19.

Maine is a member of BOEM’s Gulf of Maine Task Force, along with New Hampshire and Massachusetts, through which the State will continue to participate and advocate for the State’s interests in BOEM’s plans for commercial leasing.

In the coming weeks, the Governor’s Energy Office expects to release the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, a comprehensive plan for offshore wind in Maine developed by leading economic, environmental, fisheries, and community representatives over the past 18 months. For more about the Roadmap, please visit maineoffshorewind.org.

The research site also aligns with the trajectory of the emerging offshore wind industry in the U.S., as clean energy generation targets by the Federal government and many states increase priority for commercial-scale projects in deep Federal waters, where floating platform technology will likely be required. By addressing fundamental questions about how offshore wind can co-exist with other users of the Gulf of Maine, the intent of the research array is to advance the development of Maine’s offshore wind economy while informing the responsible growth of commercial scale floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine and beyond.