by Terra Gallo
A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a trip to the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island with other environmental advocates, policymakers, and business leaders from Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. This wind farm was the first offshore wind project in the United States, and has been operational for nearly six years. As a summer fellow with MCV, I’ve been learning a ton about offshore wind, something I was fairly unfamiliar with before, and was excited to see this groundbreaking project in person.
My initial introduction to the promises of renewable energy came many years ago. My mother worked as a wildlife biologist for Maine Audubon, and a crucial component of her work was exploring whether (and how) Maine could fully develop land-based wind power without impacting high-value wildlife habitats, such as fragile alpine zones. While her research was challenging and frustrating at times, she eventually reached the conclusion that, through thoughtful collaboration and careful implementation, it is possible to both protect Maine’s beloved wildlife and achieve our state’s bold renewable energy goals. Watching my mother tangle with dozens of variables, impact projections, and enormous data sets helped form the foundation of my curiosity for renewable power’s potential in Maine –and this has stuck with me ever since.
Having a front-row seat to my mom’s work offered me a nuanced perspective on wind energy from an early age. I understood that it wasn’t just a question of whether we need renewable energy (which of course we do), but how we transition to a clean energy economy in a way that reconciles the needs of many different people and our environment. I brought this background to my work at MCV, and was excited to learn more about offshore wind specifically. I know that floating offshore wind will be a crucial renewable energy resource for our state, but imagining what exactly these turbines will look like in the Gulf of Maine isn’t easy.
I had hoped that seeing the 30 megawatt, five turbine Block Island Wind Farm would help me imagine what offshore wind will look like in Maine – but shortly after arriving in Rhode Island, we learned that we wouldn’t be able to go out due to mechanical difficulties with the boat tasked with bringing us to the floating offshore wind farm. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I realize now that I didn’t need to see the wind turbines to see floating offshore wind’s future in Maine.
Nearly two hundred people who were planning to join the offshore adventure stayed shoreside for hours to meet one another and share their various perspectives and roles in promoting responsible offshore wind technology in Maine and beyond. I spoke to a marine researcher who uses buoys and sensors to collect marine ecosystem and bathymetric data, staff from Governor Mills’ Energy Office, Maine Audubon biologists researching potential impacts of wind turbines on marine wildlife, a computer science student modeling offshore wind with virtual reality technology, and labor organizers who spoke about the importance of unionized labor in the clean energy sector and training folks for offshore wind jobs. A common thread was clear: everyone appreciated the diverse community that was present and recognized the power in working collaboratively towards a renewable energy future.
Knowing that there are passionate folks working on every aspect of offshore wind – labor, wildlife, policy, economics, and more – makes it feel so much closer and in reach. I know the importance of reconciling these different interests and including all of these perspectives – they are crucial for the success of an equitable transition to renewable energy. The diverse array of people who are working collectively towards implementing floating offshore wind give me so much hope for the future of renewable energy, our state, and the future of our planet.