Maine Shows the Way Toward Ocean Energy Exploration for Washington State

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Paul Williamson of Maine Wind Industry Initiative aboard the Bremerton Ferry in WashingtonWashington State and Maine have a lot in common. Both have a strong maritime heritage, manufacturing sectors, creative business with renowned work ethics, advanced composite industries and an abundance of natural resources.

However, when it comes to developing local energy solutions, Washington State has just started to explore ocean energy - wind, tide and wave - possibilities.

As part this exploration, Washington State identified Maine as a potential ocean energy development model, which is why the organizers of the first Washington State Ocean Energy Conference invited Paul Williamson of the Maine Wind Industry Initiative to present a keynote address about the Maine experience on November 8th in Bremerton. The State of Maine has much to be proud of in the attempts to develop new energy sources.

The momentum begun with the Maine Wind Energy and Ocean Energy Task Forces has resulted in streamlined regulations, the establishment of realistic goals, and support for the development of tidal and offshore wind pilot programs. These initiatives are now attracting worldwide attention which will hopefully lead to further investment in Maine. Nonetheless, the high energy costs in Maine, coupled with limited financial resources, make it difficult to launch development of newer technologies. Though, Maine does have a dire motivation in that it is the most oil-dependent state in the union.

On the other side of the continent, Washington is just beginning to lay a blueprint for a new ocean energy industry. It will benefit both states to develop strong partnerships in the development of ocean energy, in spite of the geographic separations. Unlike Maine, Washington has an abundance of inexpensive electricity resulting from past public work projects. Yet, Washington leaders do recognize that recent and near future hydro power dam removals and coal plant retirements, coupled with the future shift toward electric transportation will require additional clean energy generation.

Washington's leaders are struggling with how to make the argument that investments in new, higher-cost generation will be required for the future when the state currently appears so energy-comfortable.

While members of the conference discussed issues related to technology, environment, and transmission, two themes were repeated throughout the conference. First, the State of Maine serves as a good model (despite inherent challenges), and second, Washington and Maine will benefit by establishing partnerships to develop technologies and processes.

Thanks to Paul Williamson for contributing this article.

Photo caption: Author Paul Williamson departing Bremerton Washington by ferry