Maine Takes Major Step Forward On Developing New Offshore Wind Industry


Contact: Francis Eanes, 814-421-4528,  

Maine Takes Major Step Forward On Developing New Offshore Wind Industry

Augusta ME – The Mills Administration today took a critical and necessary step forward in the development of a new port facility to support the growth of offshore wind along Maine’s coast.

In a recommendation that was developed after significant stakeholder engagement, environmental and economic analysis and careful consideration, Maine is recommending to the federal government that a new port be developed on land owned by the Maine DOT on Sears Island. Developing port infrastructure is essential not only to launch offshore wind projects at scale, but is the best way to capture the local union job and economic benefits of the industry while showcasing the University of Maine’s leading floating turbine technology. 

“We applaud Governor Mills’ decision to select Sears Island for the construction, manufacturing, and deployment of offshore wind,” said Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO. “This site offers the amount of space required for the development of commercial wind projects, while protecting valuable fishing grounds upon which many local families depend. A coalition of union leaders and workers, environmental organizations, environmental justice communities, and youth climate leaders fought hard to ensure that this project will provide good jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits, as well as many training opportunities for a diverse workforce of the future. Once constructed, this port will facilitate work for decades in an area that has suffered the devastating impacts of shuttered industries. The increasing frequency of severe weather is wreaking havoc on working class communities in Maine. Unions here are proud to play their part in the fight against climate instability. Our members stand ready to build the infrastructure necessary to justly transition Maine into a clean energy future.”

The state considered two potential Searsport locations – Mack Point and Sears Island – as well as Portland and Eastport, for a new port to serve offshore wind. The state recommends Sears Island, citing several important factors:

  • The Sears Island site is optimized for commercial-scale production, while other locations are either too small or lack the minimum water- and air-draft requirements needed to support the industry at scale for decades to come;
  • The Maine Department of Transportation owns the Sears Island parcel, which was purchased as a potential site for a new port facility;
  • By locating the port on Sears Island, significantly less dredging will be required, reducing the impact on fisheries and the marine environment that dredging can cause; 
  • Preserving the existing dry and bulk capacity of Mack Point, with its rail spur,  is critical for the emerging land-based wind and future biofuel industries in northern Maine; and
  • A new facility on Sears Island would minimize exposure to prevailing winds, providing a safer environment for workers and shipping.

The Searsport Select Board has passed two resolutions broadly in favor of offshore wind and a new port (February 2022 and December 2023), and public opinion research has consistently shown high levels of statewide support for the new industry.

“Addressing climate change requires that we make hard decisions, and the creation of a new port facility requires difficult trade-offs. Maine cannot meet its clean energy goals without quick action on offshore wind. We have spent countless hours out in coastal communities, including Searsport, listening and talking to residents about this opportunity, and look forward to working together with them and the State to make sure that working-class Mainers continue to have a meaningful seat at the table to guide this industry’s development,” said Francis Eanes of Maine Labor Climate Council.

Environmental and labor organizations successfully worked with Gov. Mills and members of the Legislature in 2023 to create a critical legal framework to catalyze the offshore wind industry in Maine. LD 1895 puts in place strong wildlife and fisheries protections for offshore wind and port development, empowers host communities to negotiate Community Benefit Agreements, and ensures that Maine people benefit from the new industry with good-paying, union jobs that offer a pathway to the middle class. The Community Benefit Agreements process can be used by stakeholders as a way to have a meaningful seat at the table as the development process continues, ensuring that impacts are minimized and local benefits maximized.

With some of the world’s strongest and most consistent winds for capturing wind energy, the Gulf of Maine could produce more than half of the energy Maine will need to power homes and transportation, and meet our climate and clean energy goals. It’s home-grown, stable and affordable, which will strengthen Maine’s energy security in a world with increasingly volatile energy price spikes. 

The administration’s announcement kicks off a federal permitting process necessary to actually site and build the port, and also reserves Maine a seat at the table as the federal government makes decisions on a number of grants and programs that are critical to fund this once-in-a-generation investment.  An example of this federal investment is the Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Port in California, which was recently awarded more than $426 million from a competitive US Department of Transportation grant program that will pay for port design, construction, on-site clean energy to power the facility, and a community benefits package negotiated by local stakeholders.

In early 2022, the state formed an Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group (OSWPAG) to serve as an adviser to the Maine DOT, the Governor’s Energy Office and other state officials regarding the development of a wind port that will allow Maine to realize the environmental and economic benefits of the rapidly developing offshore wind market in a way that reflects community values and minimizes adverse impacts. 

For nearly two years, the state has worked with the Offshore Wind Port Advisory Group to gather information and feedback to inform the decision on where a new port should be built

The intent of this OSWPAG process was to provide the structure for a robust stakeholder and public communication process with respect to wind port development. Group members attended six meetings throughout 2022 and 2023 and provided an early engagement final report in July 2023.

“Offshore wind is essential to Maine’s transition away from expensive and dirty fossil fuels, and to realize this incredible opportunity, we need port infrastructure,” said Beth Ahearn of Maine Conservation Voters and co-chair of the OSWPAG. “Today’s announcement of Sears Island as the preferred port location builds on the undeniable momentum of this new industry. For the past several years, the state has been thoughtfully conducting the outreach and research required to make this decision. Maine Conservation Voters has and will continue to be an active participant and will do our part to ensure the new port has the least impact to – and most benefits for – the environment and local communities.”

In November a coalition of labor, environmental, and climate organizations urged the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Port Authority to move expeditiously to develop a commercially viable offshore wind port, of which today’s siting decision is a critical step. That coalition includes Maine Audubon, Maine Conservation Voters, Maine Climate Action Now, Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council, Maine Labor Climate Council, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Youth for Climate Justice, and Natural Resources Council of Maine. 

What Others Are Saying About Offshore Wind:

“Climate change is the biggest threat to Maine’s woods, waters, coasts, and communities. To avoid more damage like we’ve seen this winter, we need to speed up our transition to clean energy,” said Jack Shapiro, Climate & Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Building a deep-water port to construct floating wind turbines is our best opportunity to create new jobs and generate the large amounts of Maine-made clean energy we need to power the future.”

“Offshore wind presents an amazing opportunity to help prevent the worst impacts of climate change and benefit Maine wildlife,” said Sarah Haggerty, Conservation Biologist and GIS Manager with Maine Audubon. “We are committed to working through available state and federal processes to minimize impacts from all facets of offshore wind development as we move ahead with this vital technology.”

“In the future, when driving through Searsport, I will cheer at the sight of a true working waterfront–a vast improvement over one where middle and working class Mainers are driven away because of a lack of opportunity and skyrocketing living costs. I will appreciate this facility, placed with community input and created with local, well-paid labor, and recognize the hard decisions and critical sacrifices that went into making this monumental decision. I will think back fondly on this moment, when Mainers made the right decision for our collective future,” said Riley Stevenson, Maine Youth for Climate Justice.

“To build anything, you need a location, a plan and the people to build it,” said Jason J. Shedlock, President of the Maine Building Trades Council & Regional Organizer/Secretary Treasurer of the Laborers’ International Union, Local 327. “Because we insisted on high-road union construction careers for our local community, protected our iconic fishing industry and ensured a skilled workforce via union Registered Apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, we will have the people. Because of the work of this administration, labor unions, environmental allies, the local community and industry partners, we have the plan. Because of a comprehensive process and analysis, we have the recommended location. And because union members never start a job without seeing it through to completion, we will have an industry Mainers can be proud of.”