In this Aug. 15, 2016, file photo, wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project stand in the sea off Block Island, R.I. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Maine is ahead of most coastal states in its plans for offshore wind, but the floating technology it is developing still needs to be tested and likely won’t be a major factor in the energy mix until 2030 or later.

A roadmap released by Gov. Janet Mills’ administration on Thursday focuses on supporting economic growth, harnessing renewable energy, advancing innovation in Maine, supporting the state’s seafood industry and protecting the Gulf of Maine’s ecosystem.

Offshore wind is expected to be an integral part of Maine’s climate and clean energy targets that include achieving carbon neutrality as a state by 2045 and doubling clean energy jobs to 30,000 by 2030. In a speech this month, Mills proposed an accelerated goal of getting to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2040.

The U.S. lags wind power installations elsewhere in the world. The United Kingdom alone plans to generate a third of its electricity from offshore wind by 2030, Reuters said. By contrast, the U.S. has two operational projects in Rhode Island and Virginia, but there are at least 34 more proposals for offshore wind development.

Most offshore wind turbines are fixed to the bottom of the sea. Maine plans to test floating technology similar to that used in Scotland since 2017 that makes it easier to assemble the arrays on land and float them out to sea.

A floating turbine pilot off of Monhegan Island is expected to be operational next year. The first grid-connected offshore wind turbine in the U.S. was tested off the coast of Castine in 2013 as part of a University of Maine-led project.

Mills and lawmakers have made compromises with opponents in the fishing community worried about how the Monhegan project would affect their business, including not locating the turbines too close to shore.

The Democratic governor’s administration announced plans to create the nation’s first floating offshore wind research farm in 2020. Last month, the federal government advanced Maine’s application to lease the proposed site of the wind farm.

There also is federal support for floating wind farms from several U.S. agencies including the Department of Energy, which in September 2022 announced the Floating WindShot initiative to accelerate development of floating wind by setting a national target of generating 15 gigawatts of energy from floating wind by 2045.

While the floating wind technology is in early stages compared to the fixed platforms now in place, it does promise easier assembly on land that could be floated further out to sea. The Gulf of Maine has some of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world, which gives it great potential for generating clean energy and economic opportunity for Maine.

“We are at the forefront of floating wind development,” Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said.

He said leases to locate wind turbines in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine are expected to be sold in 2024. Procurement deals from states or other customers will follow and will be necessary to help fund the expensive projects. If the funding is available to build the offshore wind, Shapiro expects larger scale commercial turbines to go into operation in the early 2030s, which puts them on schedule to help meet Mills’ clean energy goals.

Floating platforms could easily run the length of a football field with blades longer than 300 feet. The hub that supports the blades can be more than 380 feet above the water. That makes them similar in size to building a ship, Shapiro said.

“I think a lot of the skills that Maine already has in shipbuilding are really well suited to adapt to floating turbines,” Shapiro said.

Other help could come from the Legislature. Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, who co-chairs the Legislature’s energy committee, plans to introduce legislation to help guide development of offshore wind in Maine.

“This gets us away from reliance on fossil fuels as a source of producing electricity,” Lawrence told Maine Public. “Once we do that, we no longer have to deal with the fluctuations in oil prices… We now have as a fuel source the wind, the sun and we don’t pay anything for those.”