New report: New England has vast potential for offshore wind energy

Media Contacts
Anya Fetcher

Environment Maine Research and Policy Center

PORTLAND – New England has more than enough offshore wind potential to meet both its 2019 and projected 2050 electricity needs in a finding from a new report released Thursday by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group.

The report, Offshore Wind for America, examines U.S. offshore wind potential by both coastal region and by state, while documenting the status of existing projects and technological advances. New England could generate more than five times its projected 2050 electricity demand with offshore wind alone. Massachusetts has the potential to generate the most offshore wind power of any state, while Maine has by far the highest ratio of potential offshore wind power to its current and future electricity needs. For projections of 2050 electricity demand, the report assumes that U.S. buildings, industry and transportation will all be powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels by mid-century.

“When it comes to transitioning New England to 100 percent renewable energy, offshore wind holds the keys to the castle,” said Hannah Read, Go Big on Offshore Wind associate with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “It’s clean, overwhelmingly abundant, and located right where we need it.”

“Other countries have been benefiting from offshore wind for decades, and it’s high time we join them,” said Anya Fetcher, state director for Environment Maine. “Offshore wind has proven itself many times over – and there’s more than enough of it in Maine. It’s an opportunity to solidify our place as a leader in clean, renewable energy, using technology that can be deployed and distributed locally, right here in Maine.”

“Environment America’s new report confirms the data we have been generating for the state of Maine,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, founding Executive Director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. “Harnessing just 3% of the Gulf of Maine offshore wind resource would be enough to fully electrify heating and transportation in Maine.”

The Atlantic region has the most and also the largest offshore wind projects in the planning state with 26 projects in various stages of planning and development. Of the 14 states along the Atlantic seaboard, 12 have the potential to produce more electricity from offshore wind than they used in 2019, and seven have the potential to produce more than they are projected to use in 2050.

“The potential of offshore wind in New England is astounding, and we at ELM believe that it can be developed equitably and responsibly,” said Susannah Hatch, clean energy coalition director for Environmental League of Massachusetts. “Offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to reach net zero by 2050 in New England – we can and must pursue this incredible energy resource with urgency in order to mitigate the climate crisis.”

In addition to highlighting states that stand to provide the most offshore wind power relative to their electricity usage, the report also highlights how the success and growth of offshore wind globally in Europe and Asia has supported the continued advancements of offshore wind technologies. Turbine power and efficiency continue to improve, while the introduction of floating turbines will be crucial for expanding offshore wind potential in states with especially deep coastal water, such as Maine and California.

The report emphasized that a regional effort to develop offshore wind will be critical for its efficient and responsible development. 

“Rhode Island has experienced more warming than any of the other lower 48 states,” said Kai Salem, policy coordinator for Green Energy Consumers Alliance. “Our plentiful offshore wind resources provide an affordable, job-creating pathway to meeting our climate goals. Green Energy Consumers is excited to see this industry continue to grow in Rhode Island, which led with the nation’s first offshore wind project.”

“Coordinated efforts to understand and reduce the risks for birds and other wildlife from the offshore wind is the best way to ensure that this critical resource can be built out efficiently and responsibly to meet a carbon-free future,” said Shilo Felton, Ph.D. Field Manager of the Clean Energy Initiative at the National Audubon Society.

“America is poised to harness the renewable energy of offshore wind, and Massachusetts will lead the way in the new industry,” said Jon Mitchell, mayor of New Bedford and chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Energy Committee. “As the country’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm is about to be launched from the Port of New Bedford, we look forward toward a more sustainable future and growing clean energy job opportunities for American families.”

“Offshore Wind for America reminds us that offshore wind can and will rise to the occasion of meeting our energy needs right here in New England” Read said. “This incredible resource is still largely untapped, but New England has the chance to take advantage of it and lead the way in building a resilient green future. Now is the time to go big on offshore wind.”

Read Offshore Wind for America: The Promise and Potential of Clean Energy off Our Coasts.