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Updated: November 15, 2023

Maine to spend $400K on studying how offshore wind power might affect fisheries

aerial map of water with curvy lines and numbers Courtesy / National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Governor’s Energy Office Seen here are multi-averages of offshore wind speeds in the Gulf of Maine as of February 2023.

Fishing operations and fishing communities along Maine’s coast are the focus of the state’s initial research solicitations related to offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine.

“As a result of extensive stakeholder engagement and collaboration with partners, we are pleased to publish a call for proposals for two key research objectives that are critical to helping us move responsible offshore wind forward,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, which is overseeing development of the industry, still in the nascent stage. 

A request for proposals, issued Nov. 8, is based on priorities identified by the Maine Offshore Wind Research Consortium, an assembly of fisheries, wildlife and marine science and industry experts advising the state’s offshore wind research. 

The priorities include pathways to coexistence between fisheries and offshore wind as well as potential social and ecological impact of offshore wind development. 

Research topics identified by a board of advisors to the consortium are:

  • Exploring approaches to fisheries coexistence with floating offshore wind (maximum $250,000).
  • Inventorying baseline data on socioeconomics of Maine fishing communities to help assess potential positive and negative impacts of floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine (maximum $150,000).

“This research will help us better understand the potential impacts of offshore wind development on fishing communities, and we are eager to work with the awarded bidders to fill these research gaps,” said Terry Alexander, advisory board co-chair and a commercial fisherman from Cundy’s Harbor.  

In total, the Governor’s Energy Office is making nearly $1.2 million available for initial research projects and anticipates issuing additional requests for proposals in the coming months.

The advisory board identified a need to collect baseline data on benthic, or ocean floor, habitats in key areas of the Gulf of Maine. This portion of the funding will be directly conveyed to Department of Marine Resources, which will subsequently publish a competitive RFP for commercial fishing vessel support and begin benthic mapping work, expected to be in spring 2024. 

“By obtaining better bathymetric images of key areas of the Gulf of Maine, we will be better able to assess and plan for, as well as mitigate potential ecological impacts of offshore wind development, which has been a key concern raised by the commercial fishing community,” said Patrick Keliher, the DMR’s commissioner.  

Other priorities identified for future research include socioeconomic impacts, avian species, and ways to realize cost efficiencies in supply chain and workforce development or technology advances in floating offshore wind design and deployment.  

Enhancing research in the Gulf of Maine is aligned with the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, an 18-month stakeholder-driven comprehensive plan that offers strategies to develop an offshore wind industry in Maine.

The advisory board includes commercial and recreational fishing interests, scientists from public and private research institutions, offshore wind industry members, Maine municipalities, Maine-based environmental groups and Maine state agencies. 

The request for proposals seeks bids from independent, science-based consultants. 

The consortium was established by LD 1619, a bill signed by Gov. Janet Mills in 2021 and is coordinated by the Governor’s Energy Office, Department of Marine Resources and Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife.

Proposals are due Dec. 5. For more information, click here.

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