PORTLAND, Maine – With targeted investments and forward-looking policies, Maine could build on its advantages in the offshore wind industry to increase economic growth and support an average of more than 2,000 jobs annually. That’s according to The Maine Jobs Project: A Guide to Creating Jobs in Offshore Wind, a new report by the American Jobs Project in partnership with the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research (MCBER) at the University of Southern Maine, the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech), and BVG Associates.
“With demand for offshore wind generation rising around the globe, Maine has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the state’s competitive advantages and be at the forefront of the industry in the United States,” said Ryan Wallace, Director of the MCBER, “The Maine Jobs Project demonstrates how our state can capitalize on this opportunity and offers a pathway for growth and collaboration across industry, government, and university partners.”
As an emerging sector in the United States, offshore wind generates energy from faster, more consistent wind speeds than land-based wind generation, and can be leveraged to meet the vast energy needs of coastal states. Offshore wind farms that are supported by floating foundations are uniquely suited for deeper waters, allowing turbines to be located farther out to sea. Given Maine’s track record of innovation in floating foundation technology, interest from cooperative industry associations, a growing network of composites manufacturers, and immense offshore energy resource potential, Maine is well positioned to benefit from the rising demand for offshore wind technology.
The Great Recession hit Maine’s manufacturing sector hard, especially the pulp and paper industry, and the state has since exhibited the slowest-growing economy in New England. The effects of the economic downturn have reverberated across the state; between 2007 and 2017, the prime-age work force (those between the ages of 25 and 54) declined by 5 percent, leaving at least 30,000 Mainers not participating in the job market. As home to the oldest population in the United States, Maine also faces the challenge of stagnant population growth, a rapidly aging workforce, and a skills gap in the manufacturing sector. Growing the state’s offshore wind industry is a promising strategy for providing Mainers with gainful employment and attracting investment from global offshore wind firms.
“The U.S. offshore wind sector is about to take off, and Maine has an opportunity to shape this emerging industry,” said Mary Collins, director of the American Jobs Project and co-author of the report. “Maine is poised to be a leader in offshore wind innovation, manufacturing and deployment. It is home to R&D 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.”
Based on extensive research and stakeholder outreach, The Maine Jobs Project finds that:
- The offshore wind industry could support an average of 2,000 jobs each year through 2030. This figure includes direct jobs from manufacturing and software development, indirect jobs from suppliers, and induced jobs from spending in the local economy.
- Growth in demand for offshore wind energy is accelerating, with the industry projected to grow 16 percent annually through 2030.
- Maine is home to concrete production and manufacturing facilities and assets that can be used to locally construct wind turbine components, such as floating foundations.
- Maine could harness its natural resource potential to mobilize the offshore wind market in the Northeast by supplying expertise and products to facilitate an expected build out of 7.5 GW of offshore wind energy.
The report provides strategies designed to build up critical assets for industry growth in Maine, including the innovation ecosystem, access to capital, workforce development programs, business recruitment, and local market deployment. Recommendations include:
- Re-establishing the Maine Planning Office to provide technical assistance, economic analyses, and coordinated resources in support of the state and municipal governments’ economic and energy planning needs;
- Bolstering foreign direct investment (FDI) to fill critical gaps in the value chain and make Maine a desirable option for offshore wind companies seeking to expand to the United States;
- Modernizing Maine’s economic development strategies to attract and expand new businesses;
- Establishing a Northeast Offshore Wind Innovation Center to coordinate regional offshore wind R&D efforts, foster engagement with important industry players across the North Atlantic, leverage investments from the federal government and state governments, and set and achieve goals related to floating foundation technology;
- Creating an Offshore Wind Business Development Fund to assist emerging businesses in overcoming barriers to market entry, such as high administrative costs and capital expenditures needed to retool operations; and
- Establishing offshore wind certificate or degree programs to support a skilled workforce.