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Federal agency advances Maine's application for first-in-the-nation floating offshore wind project

This Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo shows the country's first floating wind turbine works off the coast of Castine, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
This Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo shows the country's first floating wind turbine off the coast of Castine, Maine.

The Mills' administration's plan to build a first-in-the-nation floating offshore wind research array is being allowed to proceed. On Thursday, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management determined that the proposed site has no competitive leasing interest, which is being heralded by supporters as an important step forward in developing clean energy.

The offshore wind research array would be 45 miles off the coast of Portland in a 15-square mile stretch of federal waters. It would feature up to 12 turbines on floating platforms pioneered by the University of Maine and allow research into how offshore wind affects marine life, as well as the fishing and shipping industry.

Dan Burgess, the director of the state's energy office, says volatile energy prices this winter underscore the importance of developing clean energy in Maine and New England.

"This small scale research project can really help establish the best way for our state to both embrace the economic opportunity, but also make sure we're being thoughtful and mindful about the impacts as we move forward," he says.

The federal agency's determination that paves the way for the project also drew praise from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The Maine Lobstermen's Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The proposed offshore wind research array will now undergo a federal environmental assessment and review.