The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Beth Ahearn is the director of government affairs for Maine Conservation Voters. James Gillway is the Searsport town manager. They co-chair the Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group.
For generations, our coastal waters have been an important resource for our people and our state. Generations of fishermen have made their living hauling up nets and traps, delivering food and pride for Maine people and visitors alike while sustaining an important heritage industry that defines our state.
Hundreds of ships deliver goods to our ports every year, creating and sustaining jobs and generating economic activity for Maine. The men and women of Bath Iron Works build the Navy’s best ships, which are set to sea along our coasts, and our waters are home to recreational boaters and fishermen who are taking advantage of all that Maine has to offer.
With new and innovative technology developed by the University of Maine at Orono, our waters may present us with another opportunity – one that, if done correctly, could help Maine create jobs, strengthen our economy, and reduce our dependence on expensive fossil fuels, and lower electricity costs. That is offshore wind.
We all know the potential benefits of offshore wind. Studies show that Maine has the potential to create offshore wind career opportunities in more than 175 occupations – from boatbuilders to engineers, steelworkers to scientists — and has the workforce, industrial base and deep-water ports to develop a regional, national and global offshore wind supply chain to drive investment in Maine. We also know that offshore wind would benefit future generations as well, by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, vulnerability to energy prices set by volatile global markets, and harmful carbon emissions.
Establishing port facilities in Maine to support the offshore wind industry can help harness clean energy while creating jobs and strengthening the economy. The prospect of Maine being part of the solution to our planet’s energy problems is an exciting one, but, importantly, it must be done right – it must be done the Maine way.
That’s why, earlier this year, the Maine Department of Transportation created an Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group to engage in conversations about how Maine may be able to responsibly pursue the benefits of offshore wind while ensuring that we protect the commercial, environmental, and recreational aspects of what makes us special.
This group will advise MaineDOT and other state officials regarding the potential development of any wind port facilities needed for Maine to help secure the environmental and economic benefits of the offshore wind market. The advisory group consists of 19 members representing a broad spectrum of local, regional and statewide stakeholders, including representatives from environmental, business, port and marine transportation, fishing, labor, construction and conservation interests.
This port advisory group is a companion effort to the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative led by the Governor’s Energy Office, which is more broadly exploring how Maine may pursue offshore wind responsibly, in federal waters that are further off the coast, and in a way that protects our state’s fishing and maritime industries and our environment. A key component of this broader energy office initiative is the development of the Offshore Wind Roadmap, a comprehensive economic development planning process now underway. Working groups of the roadmap project are studying fisheries, energy markets, environmental and wildlife issues, supply chain, workforce development, and port and marine transportation needs.
The Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group has held two meetings so far. We know there are many questions about the best paths forward for Maine when it comes to harnessing the power of clean, renewable energy sources. We have questions too. We are working hard to find answers together. These meetings represent the beginning of an educational process — both for advisory group members and for the public.
These conversations are critical to building shared understanding about designing offshore wind port infrastructure responsibly, weighing key questions about how it impacts existing ports in Maine and potential effects on adjacent areas and communities. We are committed to making this public engagement process a robust and transparent one that welcomes all perspectives and listens to all voices. To learn more about the Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group and its work, please visit its website, maine.gov/mdot/ofps/oswpag/.