United States

United States

Maine 'well-suited' for offshore wind job boom

UNITED STATES: Greater industry engagement and forward-thinking strategies could help Maine leverage its advantages in infrastructure, academia, and natural resources to support more than 2,000 jobs, according to a new study.

R&D activities like the University of Maine's VolturnUS project give the north-eastern state an advantage for building an offshore wind industry
R&D activities like the University of Maine's VolturnUS project give the north-eastern state an advantage for building an offshore wind industry

The north-eastern state currently has no commercial offshore wind farms in operation or in development, but it could become an industrial hub for the US' offshore wind sector, the American Jobs Project claimed.

Its academic expertise, infrastructure and existing workforce could all be leveraged to help develop offshore wind off the coast of the Pine Tree State, the think-tank argued in its report, The Maine Jobs Project: A Guide to Creating Jobs in Offshore Wind.

The researchers also made 15 policy recommendations to help improve procurement of projects and boost investment in the supply chain.

"The US offshore wind sector is about to take off, and Maine has an opportunity to shape this emerging industry," said Mary Collins, the think-tank’s director and co-author of the report.

"It is home to research and development activities, key legacy industries, and an expansive coastline with enormous offshore wind resource potential.

"State leaders have the opportunity to steer the ship in the right direction and bring economic prosperity back to the state, providing thousands of much-needed jobs for communities."

Wind speeds of 9-10m/s off Maine’s coast are among the highest in the north-east making it uniquely-suited for offshore wind, the think-tank argued.

But, like most US waters, fixed-bottom foundations would not be viable for projects off the state’s coast. Water depths reach 61 metres just three nautical miles from the shore, meaning the use of floating foundations is likely. 

However, the researchers pointed to the state’s "booming academic culture and a strong network of innovators" as providing an advantage in overcoming this potential barrier.

The University of Maine is home to VolturnUS, a concrete, four-column semi-submersible hull concept — the first floating offshore wind platform to be approved for piloting by regulators at the American Bureau of Shipping.

It is due to be tested in a full-scale, two-turbine demonstration at the 12MW Aqua Ventus site.

This expertise could be leveraged to inspire other ideas within the offshore wind sector, the researchers argued.

The state is also home to concrete production, manufacturing facilities and other assets that could be used to construct floating foundations in-state, the study claimed.

At Maine’s deep-water ports, meanwhile, the existing infrastructure and easy access to roads and railways could facilitate the assembly and transportation of large wind turbine components, the researchers suggested.

The state also has a skilled workforce in related industries such as onshore wind and shipbuilding. These transferrable could be re-tooled to benefit the offshore wind industry, the report’s authors argued.

"With greater industry engagement, Maine could harness its natural resource potential by leveraging momentum from the University of Maine’s Aqua Ventus project and mobilising in-state R&D to bring other innovative ideas from labs and universities into the market," the researchers concluded.

"The offshore wind industry could help to address Maine’s need for good-paying jobs while offering a diverse array of employment opportunities that cater to different education and experience levels.

"With forward-thinking strategies and innovative solutions, Maine could leverage the offshore wind industry to support an annual average of 2,144 jobs through 2030"

The American Jobs Project concluded that these jobs could include: civil engineers, electrical and electronics engineering technicians, construction labourers, welders, cutters, solderers and brazers, environmental scientists, and machinists.

This job creation could help Maine meet its need for jobs, the think-tank argued. It was hit by the 2008 financial crisis, with at least 30,000 residents not participating in the job market by 2017, the researchers found.

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