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 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).


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.


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 and transmission lines required to bring electricity generated offshore onto the grid (Dagher 2010 and Wright et al. 2002).   


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 (N{_}OAANOAA) 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).


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). 


  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

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