The Island Institute’s ocean renewable energy work aims to ensure that any future ocean energy developments off the New England coast are designed and sited in such a way as to minimize harmful impacts and ensure that local communities derive benefits from local projects. We partner with island and coastal communities to provide the tools and information necessary to weigh the costs and benefits of offshore energy development.

Our programming in this area has included:

  • Developing the report, Engaging Communities in Offshore Wind: Case Studies and Lessons Learned from New England Islands;
  • Promoting fact-based decision making about offshore wind power and other renewable energy sources through the Islanded Grid Resource Center;
  • Facilitating discussions between the Monhegan Energy Task Force and the University of Maine around the Maine Aqua Ventus project;
  • Distributing information about offshore wind energy development to fishermen and other coastal stakeholders through the Offshore Wind Energy Information Exchange and a series of Offshore Wind Fact Sheets;
  • Ensuring that marine users are involved early and often in any siting and permitting processes associated with efforts to develop offshore wind projects in federal waters;   
  • Holding public meetings to solicit feedback from potentially impacted communities as a way to play a critical role in the successful siting of offshore wind projects;
  • Incorporating valuable information held by current marine users into the planning process to minimize any adverse impact on Maine’s coastal communities, including the documentation of island and working-waterfront communities’ use and dependence on the marine environment through the Mapping Working Waters project;
  • Keeping fishermen and other coastal residents fully informed of ways to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities for new jobs or additional work associated with offshore wind;
  • Sharing contextual information about Maine’s island and coastal communities with regional policy makers and stakeholders to help them understand how heavily reliant these communities are upon ocean access for livelihoods (see Ocean Planning);
  • Involving island and coastal communities early in the planning process of offshore development in order to integrate community values and needs in project planning efforts (see Regional Ocean Planning);
  • Ensuring that appropriate research is done to anticipate and monitor environmental impacts;
  • Researching innovative community benefit models that could be incorporated into the development of offshore wind energy in Maine to ensure that impacts and benefits of development are shared equitably.


Engaging Coastal Stakeholders

Between May 2011 and March 2012, Institute staff led the Offshore Wind Energy Information Exchange, a multi-faceted outreach and education initiative to inform and engage coastal and marine stakeholders, developers, and decision-makers in a productive dialogue on the potential for offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Maine. In March 2012, we published a series of fact sheets to address the priority questions, concerns and interests that have been voiced along the coast.

In March 2011 and March 2012, Institute staff helped to organize sessions on offshore wind energy at the Maine Fishermen's Forum. These sessions were designed to provide opportunities for members of the commercial fishing community to have their questions about offshore wind development answered and to share their views on the subject informally.  

Throughout the spring of 2011, Institute staff also participated in the series of outreach meetings sponsored by Maine Sea Grant and DeepCWind.

In December 2010, the Island Institute co-sponsored the "Offshore Wind: Tools and Information for Coastal Stakeholders" conference as a concrete step toward engaging fishermen and coastal residents in conversations about ocean renewable energy. We continue to collaborate with our partnering organizations in efforts to equip stakeholders with the tools and information necessary to engage in dialogue about offshore wind energy.

The University of Maine and its partners released the Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Report on February 23, 2011, providing an overview of the environmental, technical, and socio-economic factors relevant to the development of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine.

The Island Institute was a contributor to the report, interviewing numerous fishermen, island residents, and nonprofit and coastal leaders to research and write the section on environmental stakeholders. Interviews with fishermen resulted in a series of maps created by the Island Institute that highlight fishing activity in the Gulf of Maine.

Institute staff also contributed to the section on environmental considerations.

Researching Opportunities for Local Benefit

In an effort to ensure that local communities derive benefits from local projects, the Island Institute has researched examples from offshore wind projects in Europe as well as terrestrial wind development to better understand the process of establishing community benefits.

Mapping Working Waters

The Gulf of Maine’s coast and ocean are among our region’s greatest economic, environmental and cultural assets. Making smart decisions about our oceans requires an increased understanding of how and when our oceans are currently used to reduce user conflict and ensure existing uses like fishing will able to access key areas in the future. The Island Institute-led Mapping Working Waters project is a participatory GIS project aimed at documenting current and historical use of marine areas and engaging fishermen and others in discussion on the potential for offshore wind energy development.

Learn more about the Mapping Working Waters project

Monitoring Environmental Impacts

During 2010-2012, the Institute also played a role in the joint management of environmental impacts and monitoring research with the University of Maine-led DeepCwind consortium, working with partners at the University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences; Gulf of Maine Research Institute; New Jersey Audubon; and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories. Translation and communication of technical and scientific information to island and coastal community members is a high priority for our staff, and is accomplished in part through the Fathoming feature in The Working Waterfront newspaper.

For more information on our ocean renewable energy work, please contact: 
Suzanne MacDonald, Community Energy Director