The State of Renewable Ocean Energy

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The State of Renewable Ocean Energy 

Richard Schwartz, J. Sarah Sorenson, Henry Wyman

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

The State of Renewable Ocean Energy in Maine 2010 is the fourth chapter in The State of Maine’s Environment 2010, a report produced by the Environmental Policy Group in the Environmental Studies Program at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.  This is the sixth State of Maine’s Environment report published since 2004.

This report seeks to synthesize current published and original research on tidal turbines, wave generators and wind turbines and their application to development in Maine’s oceans.  Maine’s renewable ocean renewable energy potential has shown promise in initial research.  Offshore wind has the greatest development potential, estimated at 149 gigawatts.  Tidal projects are shown to have great potential when sited in compatible locations, such as Cobscook Bay which has an estimated 7.1 megawatts.  Wave projects have limited potential in Maine until technology is improved. 

Our spatial analysis highlights the importance of state and federal boundaries in the siting of potential test sites and the implications for the future of commercial research and development in Maine.  Continued exploration of renewable ocean energy’s environmental, economic, and social impacts, along with the existing state and federal permitting structure, and the investment environment must be completed before proposed projects move forward.  Strategic investment in Maine’s renewable ocean resource has the potential to dramatically transform the way the state generates its electricity in the coming decades.



“The ocean energy industry in Maine shows great promise. Maine needs to continue its efforts to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels by harnessing our natural resources. This will create valuable jobs here at home, and preserve our environment and quality of life.”

Governor John Baldacci, 2010

Maine’s oceans have functioned for centuries as highways of maritime commerce and fishing grounds (Firestone et al. 2005).  Today, Maine’s ocean resources continue to play a vital, albeit evolving, role in the state’s economy as a dominant commercial fishing industry is being replaced by tourism and recreation.  Moreover, homes once owned by fishing families are now purchased by vacationing, second-home buyers.  Maine’s coastal communities, spread across more than 5,000 miles of shoreline, accounted for 70% of the state’s gross domestic product and provided jobs for 55% of the state’s population in 2007 (Abbett and Englert 2009).

Approximately 60 percent of Maine’s (and New England’s) electricity generation capacity is derived from non-indigenous sources including natural gas, oil, and coal.   When crude oil prices soared to $147 a barrel in 2008, the shock to Maine’s economy was substantial.  When  When home heating and transportation are added to the calculation of Maine’s dependence on non-indigenous sources, the number rises to 90 percent (OETF 2009).  This dependence is especially daunting given When crude oil prices soared to $147 a barrel in 2008, the shock to Maine’s economy was substantial given the extent to which Maine residents use their vehicles, and home-heating’s rising share of homeowner’s budgets: from approximately 5% in 1998 to 20% in 2008 (Erario and Groghan 2009).  Although these price shocks have stabilized, they highlight the magnitude of Maine's dependence on non-indigenous sources for electricity generation. 

In an attempt to secure greater state energy independence, Governor John Baldacci formed the Ocean Energy Task Force by Executive Order in 2008.  As the state more seriously considers its oceans for their electricity generation potential, specifically from wave, tidal and offshore wind energy, renewable ocean energy development for indigenous electricity generation has become a priority for the state of Maine (OETF 2009). 


In this report we synthesize current published and original research on tidal turbines, wave generators, and wind turbines and their application to development in Maine’s oceans.  Our spatial analysis highlights the importance of state and federal boundaries in the siting of potential test sites and the implications for future of commercial research and development in Maine.  We introduce laws and regulations applicable to renewable ocean energy siting and development, and discuss relevant stakeholders. We then introduce examples of renewable ocean energy technologies and weigh their relative benefits and concerns for the state of Maine.  We offer conclusions and recommendations for Maine’s best prospects for  sustainable energy economy supported by indigenous, renewable energy technologies sited in Maine’s oceans.



We gathered our data through a literature review using Academic Search Premier, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and additional resources available in the Colby College Library.  Our primary sources of data were government reports and documents, with journal articles, books, and agency websites providing supplemental material.  We used documents published by public and private stakeholders including the Maine State Planning Office (SPO), the Energy Information Agency (EIA), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  We visited Stonington, Maine to meet with Ted Ames of the Penobscot East Resource Center and to tour the Stonington fishery in Penobscot Bay aboard his lobster boat, the Mary Elizabeth.  This trip helped us to understand existing economic uses of Maine’s ocean resources.  We also attended the National Ocean Policy Symposium at Bowdoin College, where we heard from former Congressmen Tom Allen and many other opinion leaders about the future of Maine’s offshore renewable energy resources and the impact of the Obama Administration’s Interagency Ocean Task Force on Maine’s plans for coastal and marine spatial planning.  

We used Geographic Information System (GIS) to visually represent and analyze spatial data obtained from the Maine Office of GIS, including state boundaries and bathymetry, the measurement of the varying depths of the ocean.  We used ArcGIS software (ESRI 2009) to visually represent the location of testing sites for tidal, wave, and wind technologies. 

Laws and Regulations

Laws and Regulations

There are eleven United States 11 federal and seven 7 state laws and regulations that are most relevant to the siting of offshore energy development projects in Maine.  The This section is divided into three sub-sections: International Agreements, Federal Laws, and State Laws.  Table 4.1 and Table 4.2 summarize the key points of these laws and agreements.  These laws directly affect the stakeholders discussed in the next section.

Table 4.1 State laws and regulations for offshore renewable energy





Mandatory Shoreline Zoning Act


Requires all municipalities to create zoning ordinances for areas within 250 feet of the high water line of any body of water, river, wetland, and coastline. The state holds the right to develop a zoning plan for municipalities not in compliance.

MRS Title 38 Chapter 3 § 439-449

Maine Wind Energy Act


Established policy that finds wind energy to be in the best interest of the state thereby making it a priority for state agencies to encourage wind development.

MRS Title 35-A, Chapter 34 § 3404(2)(B)

Public Trust Doctrine


The State of Maine holds state-owned submerged lands (lands below mean low-tide line out to 3-mile limit) in trust for the benefit of the people of Maine (Abbet Abbett and Englert 2009).  In accordance with this common law, the State manages these lands and the natural resources in the public interest.

(Sax 1970)

Table 4.1 State 2 Federal laws and regulations for offshore renewable energy  







Rivers and Harbors Act


Require permission to construct any causeway in or over any navigable water or to cause any diversion or obstruction to the navigable capacity of any water in the United States.

USC Title 33 § 401-403

Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)


Makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, offer for sale, to purchase, or to offer for shipment any bird, egg, or nest protected under several migratory bird treaties.

USC Title 16 § 703 et seq.

Submerged Lands Act


Requires a Granted states title to the natural resources (oil, gas, and all other minerals) located within three miles of their coastline.

USC Title 43 § 1301-1315

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)


Establishes national environmental policy and goals for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment.

USC Title 42 § 4321 et seq.

Coastal Zone Management Act


Provided states with federal assistance for those who develop and maintain a comprehensive management plan for their coastal jurisdiction or a Coastal Zone Management Plan as reviewed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

USC Title 16 § 1451-1456

Noise Control Act


National policy to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare.

UCS Title 42 § 4901-4918

Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)


Makes it unlawful to harass, hunt, capture kill, or collect marine mammals in U.S. waters.  Also has a provision for Incidental Take Authorization (ITA) which applies to certain activities including energy development projects.

USC Title 16 § 1361-1407

Pollution Prevention Act (PPA)


Establishes standards for reducing the amount of pollution generated through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use.

USC Title 42 § 13101 et seq.

Energy Policy Act


Sets forth an energy research and development program covering: (1) energy efficiency; (2) renewable energy; (3) oil and gas; (4) coal; (5) Indian energy; (6) nuclear matters and security; (7) vehicles and motor fuels, including ethanol; (8) hydrogen; (9) electricity; (10) energy tax incentives; (11) hydropower and geothermal energy; and (12) climate change technology.

USC Title 42 § 8251 et seq.

American Clean Energy Leadership Act


Promotes clean energy technology development, enhanced energy efficiency, improved energy security, and energy innovation and workforce development, and for other purposes.

S. 1462

Executive Order 13547: Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes


Adopts many of the recommendations of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. Strengthens ocean governance and emphasizes the importance of a flexible, interagency approach for coastal and marine development and planning

Executive Order 13547

Table 4.2 Federal laws and regulations for offshore energy



A diverse group of stakeholders has vested interests in Maine's pursuit of offshore alternative energy development and its possible economic, environmental, and social impacts.  Key stakeholders include national and state government agencies, regional governmental committees, and NGOs as well as energy developers, researchers, and Maine citizens.


The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment is a partnership between the US   US and Canada that promotes ocean ecosystem quality as well as sustainable resource use (Council 2010).  This network of New England states and Canadian provinces works to further the research and management of the Gulf of Maine.  A current project called the Gulf of Maine Mapping Initiate (GOMMI) will provide data for seafloor mapping and biological data, which will be important for offshore energy development.   This organization also fosters information sharing, coastal/marine education, and grant funding for sustainable industries.    


The Maine Department of Conservation (MDOC) manages and protects state and public lands. The MDOC is working with the State Planning Office in the selection and management of “Ocean Energy Testing Areas” for potential offshore wind.  They are also involved in the permitting process for offshore wind technologies (MDOC 2010).  

Local Agencies

Coastal Municipalities

Coastal municipalities are affected by local energy development on various levels.   Communities serve to benefit economically and socially from growth in renewable power but may witness negative environmental and social externatlities from this development as well. This will be further elaborated on in the discussion section of this report.


Local fishing communities are also affected by the development of offshore energy, as these projects pose potential threats for competing ocean resource use.  The installation of new technologies may interfere with fishermen’s historical claims to ocean fishing territories, and may also disrupt fish migrations. These changes may also compromise local peoples’ livelihoods which are heavily dependent on the fishing industry.  

State of Topic

State of Topic

Tidal Energy

Tidal power is a form of hydropower that harnesses the power of a tide’s ebb and flow.  While tidal power technologies date back to the early 19th century, only recently has the technology advanced to a stage that is both economically feasible and environmentally benign.  Whereas past tidal technologies dammed tidal passages, which adversely affected ecological systems, new technologies, called tidal in-stream energy conversion (TISEC) are considered more non-polluting, safe, and projected to be cost effective with other renewable energies in the near future (Ferland 2008).  While traditional damming techniques are employed around the world, TISEC technologies are only being utilized in a few international locations and have yet to be implemented for commercial use in the United States.  However, this does not mean that new tidal technologies are not feasible on a large scale.  Studies have already shown that TISEC plants have the potential for massive energy production with relatively few drawbacks (Claffey 2010).  A major obstacle at this point for tidal development is the high cost of initial construction because the technology is still relatively new to the United States.  These costs are projected to decreased, however, and eventually place tidal energy at a cost competitive rate compared to other alternative fuel sources. 


Despite its drawbacks, the benefits of tidal power indicate that this energy has huge potential for specific sites that exhibit key tidal and ocean characteristics.  Within the US only a few states show tidal power potential including Alaska, Washington, California, Massachusetts, and Maine. Additionally, within these states there are relatively few sites compatible for TISEC technology; Maine is unique in that it features some of the highest tidal ranges in the world.  Specifically, in the Bay of Fundy, on the Maine/Canada border near Eastport, tidal rages average approximately 20 feet.  Comparatively, Maine exhibits the most potential for tidal energy production in New England especially over its regional neighbor, Massachusetts, as depicted by figure Figure 4.2   2. According to a 2006 study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Maine has a combined total potential generating capacity of 100-150 megawatts (Sorenson 2010).  Sites in Passamaquoddy and Cobscook Bays present the highest energy potential for the state, which has led to the development of various test sites to study the efficiency and compatibility of tidal technologies in these ecosystems (Baldacci  2009). 

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Table 4.3 Sites of possible tidal development in Maine (EPRI 2006)

Figure 4.2 Extracted average yearly tidal energy (EPRI 2006)


Cost of electricity is also a stumbling block for development.  The estimate for cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour ranges between 34 and 39 cents (Jacobson 2010).  This cost is high even compared to tidal energy at 18-24 cents and offshore wind at 6.5 c/kWh (Musial and Butterfield June 2004).

Lastly, WECs are still in the research and development stage so technology remains unproven on the commercial scale.  Technical challenges include the pursuit of a higher energy extraction rate as well as a more durable wave energy device.  


The East Coast of the United States, including Maine, has a poor wave energy climate compared to the Pacific Coast (EPRI 2004).  There have not been any WEC installations in Maine to date.  However, the EPRI conducted a wave power feasibility study to evaluate the economics of wave power in six US locations.  The study includes a site at Old Orchard Beach in Cumberland, Maine.

Table 4.3 Wave power flux at six US locations (EPRI 2005)




Grid Interconnection

Average Annual Power Flux (kW/meter of wave crest length)


San Francisco

San Francisco

Ocean Beach Water Treatment Plant




Coos Bay

Gardiner Substation





Makai Pier, Waimanalo Beach





Wellfleet Distribution Line





Old Orchard Beach Substation


Based on Pelamis Wave Power’s device, the EPRI used National Data Buoy Center information to model the cost-effectiveness of potential WEC development sites in Maine, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.  The results showed that the Maine and Massachusetts sites demonstrated a wave energy power flux (kW/m wave crest height) of 4.9 and 13.8 respectively.  The mean wave power flux for the four western states is over 20 kW/m, which illustrates a wave power comparative advantage for the Pacific Ocean (Bedard 2005). 

The EPRI study did not eliminate the possibility of WEC development in Maine, but it did recommend that the state wait until further development of the industry before seriously considering the option.  Maine’s Ocean Energy Task Force adopted this recommendation in its December 2009 final report to Governor Baldacci.

Wind Energy

“Wind power isn’t the silver bullet that will solve all our energy challenges---there isn’t one.  But it is a key part of a comprehensive strategy to move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels to one that relies on more homegrown fuels and clean energy”

President Barack Obama, April 2010

Together onshore and offshore wind power is the fastest growing source of energy in the world (Firestone et al. 2005).  Worldwide, wind power contributes positively to nations’ diversified, renewable energy portfolios.  Wind is an inexhaustible resource and when captured by turbines sited on or offshore, it mitigates greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, increases a nation’s domestic energy security, and stimulates national and international economies through opportunities for investment, research and development, and job creation.


Although European nations have installed the majority of the world’s offshore wind generation capacity to date, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (“NREL”) estimates that the US’s absence is not a reflection of an anemic resource.  The estimated gross offshore wind generation capacity for the US is four times greater than the nation’s current electric capacity (Schwartz et al. 2010).  Twenty offshore projects representing more than 2,000 megawatts (“MW”MW) of capacity are in the planning and permitting process; although the United States will not overtake Europe’s offshore electricity generation capacity in the near future, it can learn a lot from Europe’s example (Musial and Ram 2010).


Since turbines sited further offshore can be larger and better equipped to capture the resource, they can potentially capture the strongest wind currents.  However, more severe weather conditions and deep water anchoring and transmission cabling needs challenge current turbine design and development (Musial and Butterfield 2004).  Today, no deep offshore wind turbine projects are installed and all resource capacity assessments are modeled on assumptions that could prove to be unrealistic.  The uncertainty inherent in this nascent stage of research, development, and testing is reflected, for example, by the lack of consensus on the best strategy to anchor deepwater wind turbines: numerous truss tower and anchoring technologies have been developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and by private enterprises alongside floating turbine solutions, but remain untested in the United States (Dagher 2010).  


The results of the Monhegan Island test and the further development of deep offshore technologies at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structure and Composites Center will determine whether the DeepCwind Consortium will carry out the second phase of its development strategy, the construction and testing of a 3 to 5 megawatt (MW) full-size, 300 foot-to-hub, floating turbine prototype planned for 2011 to 2015 (Dagher 2009). 



Tidal Power

Benefits to Maine

Maine’s tidal power potential exceeds that of any other New England state due to the state’s extensive coastline and extremely high tidal range (EPRI 2006).  However, even within Maine there are only a handful of sites that can be successfully developed for tidal power generation.  An ideal location must have a high tidal range, fast moving water, and bathymetry and seabed properties compatible with the technology, minimal environmental and social conflicts, and accessible connection to the grid.  A feasibility study conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute in 2006 highlights nine sites for possible tidal development in Maine. As depicted in table 4.X 4 and figure 4.X 4, sites are ranked according to their total extractable energy potential revealing the Eastport region as the leader in tidal power potential for the State.

Table 4.4 Sites of possible tidal potential development in Maine (EPRI 2006)

Site Name


Tidal Range (ft)

Total Annual In-Stream Energy Base (MWh)

Total Extractable Energy Potential (MW)


Western Passage






Outer Cobscook Bay






Lubec Narrows






Penobscot River






Piscataque River












Kennebec River Entrance






Figure 4.4 Sites of tidal potential in Maine with relative energy potential in megawatts (EPRI 2006)


Maine’s offshore wind resource is especially noteworthy when compared with the rest of New England (Schwartz et al. 2010).   Of  Of the five coastal New England states, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut, Massachusetts has the greatest offshore wind potential, approximately 200 gigawatts (GW), located in its shallow, transitional and deep territorial and adjacent federal waters (see Figure 4.5).  Maine, with approximately 156 GW of offshore wind energy potential, does not have such an equally distributed resource.  Eighty percent of Maine’s estimated electricity generation capacity from offshore wind measured at wind speeds greater than 7.0 m/s is located in its deep water, areas with depths greater than 60 meters.  By way of comparison, 47% of the Massachusetts resource is located in deep water; only 0.1% of Connecticut’s offshore wind resource is located in its deep water (Schwartz et al. 2010).

Maine’s substantial deep offshore wind energy resource potential, due in part to its unique bathymetry, the measurement of the varying depths of the ocean, explains why the majority of its proposed development focuses in the deep water, both within and beyond its 3 nautical miles of state-controlled territory.  And while developers of land-based and shallow water offshore wind farms have encountered substantial opposition, those deep off shore projects sited in federal waters, greater than three 3 nautical miles from shore mitigate many, if not all, of wind turbine’s human impacts. Construction in deep water areas minimizes visual impact and noise pollution concerns created by land-based and near-shore, shallow water wind farms (DECC 2009; Pelc and Fujita 2002).   


Deep water turbine projects, despite their similarities to previously installed and proven onshore wind turbine projects and shallow water projects, must be much larger in terms of project scale and turbine size to pay for the necessary seabed support structures and transmission cabling costs required to transmit power onshore (Musial and Butterfield June 2004).  Beyond the uncertainties inherent in developing efficient wind turbines capable of operating in deep water environments, transmission cost allocation is a considerable variable in the per kilowatt hour (kWh) cost of delivered wind-generated electricity (O'Connell and Pletka 2007).  

Image Added
Figure 4.6 Cost of Energy estimates ($ per kilowatt hour) for offshore wind for Class 6 winds from Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory.  Class 6 wind speed is 8-8.8 m/s at 50M, shallow water assumed <30 m depth, deep water assumed >60m depth  (Musial and Butterfield 2004).

Although the development in deep water areas, with a depth greater than 60 meters, is an especially attractive option for Maine due to its bathymetry and measurements of its estimated resource made by the Natural Resource Energy Laboratory (NREL), the cost of generating and transmitting deep water wind generated electricity is estimated to be notably more expensive than electricity generated by turbines sited in shallow water, where shallow water is water depth less than 30 meters (see Figure 4.6).  This difference can be attributed to the additional estimated cost, especially in initial development stages, of currently untested truss tower, anchoring and floating turbine technologies required to securely site wind turbines in deep offshore zones (Dagher 2010) and transmission lines required to bring electricity generated offshore onto the grid (Dagher 2010 and Wright et al. 2002).   

Unlike Europe’s developed offshore wind industry, the United States does not yet possess the expertise or manufacturing capability to manufacture all the necessary components to construct the turbines for its proposed projects or their accompanying transmission lines at substantial volumes (Wright et al. 2002). Notably, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center will be the only facility in the US that includes complete wind turbine development capabilities from design to performance testing of turbine components when it completes the construction of additional laboratory space in the coming years (Dagher 2010). 


Offshore wind farms and their transmission cables also have a minimal, but nevertheless non-trivial, environmental impact.  According to a study conducted by the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Chance Change (“DECC”DECC), the environmental impact of offshore wind turbines includes the acoustic and physical disturbance of seabed habitats and the physical disturbance caused by the presence of offshore infrastructure and support activities.  Above water wind farms likely pose potential impacts to bird populations and bird migrations and, if not properly sited, may interfere with existing marine shipping and commercial fishing uses (DECC 2009; Pelc and Fujita 2002).  Although European findings may provide a solid basis for understanding offshore wind’s environmental impacts, additional multi-year testing and analysis must be done in the United States before environmental impact statements can be drafted and approved by state and federal regulators (Musial and Ram 2010). 

One such study was completed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) in July 2010.  After two years of analysis of 1,360 nautical miles of state and federal waters along the New Jersey coastline, NJ DEP found that the highest density of bird populations was found closest to shore, and that approximately 7.6 miles from shore the number of birds declined substantially (NWF 2010).  The DeepCwind consortium’s plan for Maine proposes that wind farms be sited between 10 and 50 miles from shore.  Moreover, NJ DEP noted that fewer marine animals like dolphins, whales, seals and sea turtles were observed than expected during the study, but that seasonal variability, winter's effect on avian movements and summer's effect on sea turtle migration, played a larger role than expected in fluctuations in the ecosystem (NWF 2010).  At the conclusion of its study, NJ DEP suggested that brief turbine shut-downs during peak migration seasons for birds and marine species would be a suitable technique for mitigating negative environmental impacts in the marine ecosystem (NWF 2010).


FERC is principally recognized for its oversight of hydropower projects, which has been limited to electricity generating damns on streams and rivers.  However, with the advent of offshore wind, wave, and tidal power technology, FERC decided to assert regulatory control in oceans.     Since the legislative definition of its jurisdiction did not restrict FERC from ocean hydropower projects, they pushed their case whenever possible.   Concurrently, the MMS, which administered mineral exploration and the development of the OCS following an amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, attempted to gain regulatory control of ocean energy development in that region.  To complicate matters, optimal locations for WECs are typically located between 2.9 and 3.2 miles from shore, a region which straddles the boundary of state and federal waters (Sherman 2009).  However, in 1988, President Reagan issued an executive proclamation to extend state waters to 12 nautical miles, further confusing the delineation between the jurisdictions of the two agencies (Sherman 2009).

Despite a muddled past, FERC and MMS entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in April of 2009 that promises collaboration between the two agencies in order to “clarify jurisdictional understandings [in the OCS]” and “to develop a cohesive, streamlined process that would help accelerate the development of wind, solar, and hydrokinetic [i.e.  wind and wave] energy projects” (FERC 2009).  As a result of this agreement, FERC was granted authority issue licenses for all hydrokinetic projects on the OCS while the MMS will oversee the leasing and easement process (Sherman 2009).   Another important facet of the agreement is FERC’s concession to stop issuing permits on the OCS.     While this MOU represents progress towards a simpler permitting process, the inclusion of multiple agencies in the process still presents unnecessary steps from the perspective of an energy developer. 

In Maine’s oceans, the status of the permitting process has shown signs of progress, especially with regards to a recent August 2009 of a MOU between FERC and state agencies as well as the Final Report of the Ocean Energy Task Force to Governor John E.  Baldacci in August 2009.  The MOU’s principal goal is to expedite the permitting process of tidal energy projects (including but not limited to tidal) through the creation of a timely, well-coordinated application review process.  Once again, this MOU does not create any binding commitment, but, if followed, will drastically improve the state of Maine’s offshore permitting process.   The  The Ocean Energy Task Force document provides a thorough discussion of current problems surrounding permitting, but one suggestion stands out as the most logical and influential change that would reduce barriers to testing and development of projects.     Simply, the task force suggests that environmental permitting requirements be “commensurate with the scope and size of the pilot projects currently proposed and less demanding than those for a full-scale, commercial project” (Final Report OETF).

In order to streamline the permit and leasing process, the OETF suggests a “one-stop-shop” approach in both federal and state waters.  For Maine, this would mean that the DEP would take charge of all ocean renewable energy projects.  Instead coordinating with several agencies in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, etc., an ocean energy company would deal directly with DEP.  A successful model exists for this “one-stop-shop” approach in the Danish offshore wind industry, and Denmark produces 35% of 2 GW of global production (OCD 2010).  In US legislation, the 1980 Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act (OTECA) tasks the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with the licensing for construction and operation of commercial Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plants (_HNMREC 2010).  While OTEC has not been established in the US, the structure allows for “the majority, if not all federal, state, and local requirements [to be] handled through the NOAA licensing process” (HNMREC 2010).

Testing in Maine

Current testing sites for tidal turbines, wave generators and wind turbines span Maine’s 5,000 miles of coastline.  Test site determination is based on the strength of the resource, historical usage, proximity to the grid, and other factors specific to each technology.

Figure 4.7 Location of Maine’s tidal, wave and wind testing sites (Maine GIS Catalogue, DeepCwind Consortium, Electric Power Research Institute).

The Our spatial analysis highlights the importance of state and federal boundaries in the siting of potential test sites and the implications for future commercial research and development in Maine (see Figure 4.7).  Due to the additional layer of complexity involved in permitting in federal waters outside of Maine’s territorial waters, as discussed previously, all testing has been sited within the state’s waterways. 

Tidal turbines sited closer to shore fall within Maine’s territorial waters and will not be impacted by federal requirements (see Figure 4.8).  Tidal projects will have to consider local and regional legislation in order to appease social and environmental concerns due to proximity to coastal communities.  Tidal projects located on the US-Canada border will also have to take international agreements into account (EPRI 2006). 

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Figure 4.8 Location of Maine's tidal testing sites and relative energy potential (Maine GIS Catalogue, Electric Power Research Institute)

Wave generators, traditionally sited closer to shore, may not fall into federal jurisdiction if their development continues within Maine’s territorial boundary.  Future research and development of wave generators co-located in deep waters with wind turbines or comprising wind-wave hybrid systems will invoke federal permitting requirements (EPRI 2006).

Future commercial wind farm research and development must overcome federal permitting requirements so that wind farms can be sited in deeper, federal waters adjacent to Maine’s territorial waters where a stronger, more reliable wind resource is available.  Due to the disproportionate allocation of Maine’s offshore wind resource in deep water zones, it is unlikely that developers would consider large-scale commercial projects within Maine’s territorial waters (Dagher 2009). 

Future testing  testing and commercial development should be sited in locations that continue to fully consider the multiple uses for Maine’s oceans, which include commercial fishing, recreation and tourism, and a complex marine ecosystem.  To equitably allocate Maine’s ocean resource, policymakers and developers should utilize marine spatial planning (“MSP”MSP), a technique that effectively identifies areas most suitable for various types of activities in order to reduce conflicts among uses and reduce environmental and social impacts to meet multiple usage objectives (Abbett and Englert 2009).  MSP was recommended by “The State of Coastal and Marine Management in Maine 2009,” the first chapter in The State of Maine’s Environment 2009, and the final recommendations of the Obama Administration’s Interagency Ocean Task Force published  in 2010. 



Based on the discussion of the benefits and concerns of Maine’s offshore energy development, we propose three scenarios for the future of offshore renewable energy in Maine.


Contrary to the assumption that fuel oil costs will continue to rise, making investments into initially more costly renewable technologies more attractive, global fossil fuel energy prices decline.  As a result, Maine halts all existing research and development indicatives for offshore renewable energy. 



Maine’s oceans play a vital role in the state’s economic and social well-being.  The use of this resource has expanded to include potential energy extraction for tidal turbines, wave generators, and wind turbines.  The opportunity for Maine to make strategic investments in these technologies, facilitating a move toward state energy independence, would help Maine to continue moving toward a sustainable future.  


In order to fully harness this renewable ocean energy potential continued exploration of its environmental, economic, and social impacts must be completed. Additionally, a comprehensive and effective permitting process must be developed since existing permitting regulations at the state and federal level are complicated and difficult to navigate. This can best be implemented through collaboration throughout the process to ensure transparency and effective communication between all stakeholders especially with regard to the use of a Marine Spatial Planning mechanism.



  1. The LePage Administration should acknowledge the findings and recommendations of the Baldacci Administration’s Ocean Energy Task Force and pave the way for a favorable climate for continued research and development
  2. Investment and development
    1. Focus on the offshore wind industry due to the state’s substantial wind energy resource
    2. Tidal energy should receive equal support in those specialized sites appropriate for its application such as the Bay of Fundy 
    3. Wave energy should receive limited funding
  3. Research for wave energy should include the study of co-location with offshore wind turbines as well as hybrid wind-wave systems
  4. Create a “one stop shop” for permitting applications
  5. Continue to research environmental impacts specific to Maine

Works Cited

Works Cited

Abbett, John, and Chris Englert. 2009. The State of Coastal and Marine Management in Maine 2009. In State of Maine's Environment 2009. Waterville, Maine: Colby College.

Anderson, Paul. October 29, 2010. Interview by J. Sarah Sorenson: Paul Anderson, Maine SeaGrant.

Bedard, Robert, Mirko Previsic, and George Hagerman. 2007. North American Ocean Energy Status. Palo Alto, CA: Eletric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

BOEMRE. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement  2010. Available from []

Brooks, David A. 2006. The Tidal-Stream Energy Resource in Passamaquoddy-Cobscook Bays: A Fresh Look at an Old Story. Renewable Energy 31 (14):2284-2295.

Buck, Samantha, Megan Saunders, and Lewis Seton. 2008. State of Energy and Climate in Maine 2008. In State of Maine's Environment 2008. Waterville, Maine: Colby College.

Catena, John G., Steve Cole, and Anna Hayden. 1992. Policy Options for Maine's Marine Waters: A Report of the Marine Polciy Committee of the Land and Water Resources Council.

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