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Maine Selects Preferred Site for Port to Support Offshore Wind Industry

Maine Sears Island
Governor selected Sears (left) with a plan to locate the wind port across from the existing energy terminal

Published Feb 20, 2024 6:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

The State of Maine has selected a section of state-owned Sears Island, north of the city of Portland and located in Penobscot Bay as its preferred site for a port facility to support the offshore wind industry. The site would be about 100 acres in total, which is about one-third of the state-owned parcel or a little more than one-tenth of the entire island, with Governor Janet Mills saying that she believes it is the best spot to support the emerging industry.

The selection of the site followed an extensive review process led by the Maine Department of Transportation and Maine Port Authority to consider the state’s primary port development options, including multiple potential sites in the Port of Searsport, the Port of Eastport, and the Port of Portland. The state concluded that the Sears Island parcel is the most feasible port development site in terms of location, logistics, cost, and environmental impact based on input from port and offshore wind stakeholders, including the University of Maine, and technical and engineering analyses.

“This was not an easy decision, nor is it one that I made lightly. For more than two years, my administration has evaluated Sears Island and Mack Point thoroughly…,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Sears Island is the best choice for an offshore wind port because it is already owned by the state, designated for the purpose of port development, will cost less in the short-term and long-term, and is expected to result in less environmental harm.”

Sears Island is a 941-acre island off the coast of Searsport. In 2009, Sears Island was, by agreement, divided into two parcels, with approximately 600 acres, or two-thirds of the island, placed in a permanent conservation easement held by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The remaining one-third, or approximately 330 acres, was reserved by MaineDOT for future development.

The proposed port would be a purpose-built facility for floating offshore wind fabrication, staging, assembly, maintenance, and deployment. The governor cited that in addition to the state owning the land, it has the deepwater access necessary for a port facility. Unlike other possible locations, they do not expect it would require dredging. The estimated port construction cost on the Sears Island site is approximately $500 million.

Maine released its Offshore Wind Roadmap a year ago, citing the importance of developing the port facility. It builds on a 2020 study in which the governor directed MaineDOT to study the port needs to support Maine’s offshore wind industry. The study, delivered in November 2021, evaluated various locations in the Port of Searsport for an offshore wind port, including Mack Point and an area of state-owned Sears Island. 

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is moving forward with the review process for the offshore sites and a year ago released its draft area for potential commercial offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Maine. The area is expected to be one of the later to be developed because the geography requires the use of floating wind turbines.

The port proposal is subject to extensive and independent State and Federal permitting processes, including assessments of environmental impacts and alternative sites. MaineDOT, on behalf of the State, intends to apply for permits later this year, which will also include additional opportunities for stakeholder and public input on the project.