There are no oil wells in Maine. We have no coal mines. Our only nuclear power plant shut down for good in 1998, and our access to low-cost natural gas is limited by the policies of states that lie between our border and the gas fields of Pennsylvania.

Most of the energy we use is produced with imported fuel for which we pay top dollar, impacting everything from the cost of living to the loss of our manufacturing base.

But Maine is at the center of what could be the next revolution in energy production that would turn the equation in our favor.

Some of the world’s strongest and most consistent wind blows off our shores and if it could be harnessed it would provide access to cheap and clean power that could be used here and exported to the population centers to our south.

A public private partnership is developing the technology, using ideas hatched at the University of Maine and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It would be built with Maine labor and out of locally fabricated concrete.

If successful, this project could attract hundreds of millions in investment, generate hundreds of high paying jobs and change Maine’s energy calculus forever.

Or not. The Legislature will soon have a chance to decide if Maine wants to stay in the game for a chance to be the first to master developing a workable floating ocean wind facility, or if it will stand pat with the status quo.

As issue is a proposed two-turbine test site, two miles off of Maine’s iconic Monhegan Island.

Despite an eight-year public process for selecting the site, a group of island residents, island property owners and other “friends” have pushed for a bill, L.D. 1613, that would force the state to designate another test site.

The opponents say that they should not have to look at the two turbines, which would be visible from some parts of the island, which has been a favorite location for artists like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.

But moving the test site would not be so easy.

Representatives of Maine Aqua Ventus, the public private partnership pursuing the project, say that such a move would effectively kill the project by making them redo years of work, and it would disqualify the project from a potential $40 million in research funds from the Department of Energy. A spokesman for the department and industry analysts concur that there will not be an ocean wind project in Maine if the bill becomes law.

Ocean wind is booming all over the world, especially in Europe (which has had more than its share of famous artists through history.) So far, though, it is limited to shallow water where the turbines can be anchored in the sea floor.

But the strongest winds are further from shore in water too deep for that kind of set up. Floating platforms that support turbines in all weather could be anchored miles off shore capturing the best wind resource without any visual impacts.

There is an international race on to perfect a floating platform. The Maine project is the only contender in the United States. If this test cannot proceed, the research money will be invested elsewhere, and some other state will benefit from being the hub of a new industry.

L.D. 1613 sponsor Sen. Dana Dow, R-Damariscotta, says ultimately, the issue should be decided by a majority of islanders. But he’s wrong.

The view from Monhegan may be most often enjoyed by people who live there year-round or who own vacation property, but it rightly belongs to the whole state, just as all of Maine’s other natural resources do.

It’s up to lawmakers to decide what’s best for Maine, not a few dozen people.

There are many tough issues facing the Legislature this year, but this should not be one of them.

Lawmakers should get out of the way and give this project a chance to succeed.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: