PRESS HERALD: Maine’s renewable-energy industry gets a double shot in the arm

Major new solar and offshore wind projects help position us as a hub to start, grow and maintain energy businesses.

Source: Press Herald
By Jeff Marks

Maine has incredible natural energy resources that can and should be an engine of its economy. New solar and offshore wind projects help position Maine as a hub to start, grow and maintain energy businesses in a global market. This week, Maine put out the welcome mat and opened the door to being a leader in clean energy.

First, two solar development companies on both sides of the Atlantic joined forces to advance projects to generate 350 megawatts of renewable energy capacity across eight Maine communities. The international partnership between European Union-based BNRG Renewables and Portland’s Dirigo Solar LLC is moving forward with large-scale solar projects to produce enough electricity to power 78,000 homes.

The next day, a $100 million joint venture publicly emerged to develop floating offshore wind technology off the coast of Maine, potentially bringing tremendous economic, energy and environmental benefits to Maine’s coastal regions and the state. The public-private partnership includes Maine’s flagship educational institution, the University of Maine, and New England Aqua Ventus LLC, a collaboration between technology giant Mitsubishi Corp. and the second largest offshore wind company in the world, RWE Renewables. According to a joint statement by Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden: “Maine’s offshore wind resource potential is 36 times greater than the state’s electricity demand, making this project so significant for Maine’s clean energy future.”

Maine’s offshore wind industry is emerging as a competitive market advantage in the energy sector, and can create skilled labor, new technologies, product lines and projects. The competition for the next generation of offshore wind is fierce on the global level and Maine can harness its ocean energy resources to not only export its innovative technology to the world, but its specialized expertise as well.

These projects are important and timely for two reasons. First, the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging global and local economies and intensifying business uncertainty and anxiety across geographic borders, employment decisions and supply chains. The keys to confronting this crisis include developing and implementing energy projects that invest in reliable, clean and affordable electric infrastructure, expand local, clean renewable energy and create long-lasting clean-energy jobs. Energy is valuable to the Maine economy, and strong public-private partnerships like these will fuel economic development and generate sustainable jobs in the state.

Second, the Maine Climate Council, convened by Gov. Mills to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, is now actively considering and prioritizing policies that achieve climate targets while ensuring and encouraging equitable results and economic solutions for Maine’s most vulnerable communities. The Maine Climate Action Plan will be a strategic roadmap for Maine’s future energy economy. The state has many assets available to address its energy challenges, including in-state renewable resources like wind and the sun. A strategic direction is needed to use indigenous, carbon-free, renewable resources in a sustainable manner that protects the environment and supports the growth of a robust state energy market and workforce.Advertisement

Despite the opportunities, the energy sector faces considerable challenges to R&D, workforce development, economic development and incorporation of innovation into energy infrastructure. Government and utility barriers to deployment, lack of transparent information on costs and benefits, limited recruitment of skilled workers and contractors and initial upfront costs often stymie needed investments. Certainty in the state’s policy framework is a critical component of future energy business and economic development planning.

State climate action must be intelligent, bold, comprehensive and inclusive and involve Maine companies that are willing and able partners in the fight to confront the climate crisis by investing in energy and infrastructure projects and job creation to drive our economy forward. The Climate Action Plan can be the roadmap to ensure our success.