Why environment and labor groups are hopeful about Maine’s offshore wind prospects

This Earth Day, we are both feeling hopeful about Maine’s climate and economic future.

The development of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine represents a tremendous economic, environmental, and community development opportunity for our state. The prospect of wind turbines right outside our visual but within our economic horizon, simultaneously propelling us into a better climate and clean energy jobs future, is something to celebrate.

We strongly support the efforts of the Mills administration and the University of Maine to evaluate potential economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind development. Both entities are relying on research and data to understand the impacts of offshore wind to inform the future of the industry in Maine. This approach is essential to achieving our shared commitment to developing locally-produced offshore wind in a sustainable and compatible manner, and evaluating economic and environmental concerns thoroughly. It’s imperative that this groundbreaking technology is developed in a way that works for all Maine people.

What we know now is that offshore wind technology will help Maine meet the clean energy goals detailed in Gov. Janet Mills’ Climate Action Plan, while simultaneously creating hundreds of good-paying jobs for Maine’s labor force now, and thousands over the next couple of decades. What’s great about these jobs is that many would be here to stay even after the completion of the initial demonstration project.

It’s essential to engage with building trades before the beginning of projects of this size, and Maine has done just that. Labor groups have been part of discussions from the beginning, offering insight on distant challenges and how to handle them promptly and productively before construction even starts.

What excites us is this: At the present juncture, Maine could be a worldwide clean energy leader with offshore wind development. Dr. Habib Dagher, principal investigator with the University of Maine’s offshore wind research team, projects that harnessing just 3 percent of the Gulf of Maine’s offshore wind resource would be enough to fully electrify heating and transportation in Maine.

As we train Maine workers to create, construct, and care for the floating turbines, there’s an economic and environmental opportunity to propel this technology forward for other coastal states. Additionally, with the release of President Joe Biden’s new economic recovery and clean energy vision — The American Jobs Plan — the possibilities for added support and funding for clean energy projects like Maine’s offshore wind energy development have only expanded.

We do recognize that offshore wind will have an impact on the existing users of our shared waters, including the fishing and lobster industries that are the backbone of many coastal communities here in Maine. As a state, we must embrace this critical moment and ensure that we develop offshore wind in a manner that seizes on Maine’s ability to both innovate and protect our resources.

We support a vibrant, well-managed and long-lasting fishing and lobstering industry in Maine and we believe that there is room for fishing, lobstering, aquaculture, recreation and offshore wind. We share a commitment to a future where clean energy, fishing, lobstering and many other uses can coexist in the Gulf of Maine and applaud the stakeholder engagement conducted so far by the state of Maine.

As we mark the 51st Earth Day, we are optimistic. We’re excited about a future where we can work together to harness the winds of the Gulf of Maine to combat the climate crisis, ensure reliable, and good-paying work off our coast and in our coastal communities, and generate locally-produced clean energy for all Mainers.

Will Sedlack is civic engagement manager for Maine Conservation Voters.

Grant Provost is business agent for Ironworkers Local 7 in Maine.

Originally published on Bangor Daily News on 04/22/21. Read here.