A new report on offshore wind energy by the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental advocacy group, makes a case that the coast of New England has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world, that the technology is ready or near ready to exploit it, and that deepwater wind sites can offer a significant amount of non-polluting power and stimulate billions of dollars of economic activity along the northern Atlantic coast.

The report, which was cosponsored by 44 environmental groups, including Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Wind Industry Initiative and Environment Maine, comes out just three and a half months before the federal Investment Tax Credit and the Production Tax Credit for wind energy are set to expire. Senator Olympia Snowe and Senator Susan Collins have cosponsored extending them.

Leases to develop offshore sites are likely to be signed by the end of the year, according to the report. Task forces in 10 coastal states have been formed to coordinate the regulatory process between agencies and between states. Federal departments have agreed to do the same in federal waters beyond the three-mile state limit.

Several years ago Maine passed legislation and bonds in support of offshore wind development, and the state has received major federal grants for research and development. Two projects are currently under way in the state: Statoil has proposed building Hywind Maine, a pilot floating wind project, and DeepC Wind, a University of Maine-led consortium, is working on a demonstration site to test new deepwater turbine technology prior to siting a floating turbine wind farm offshore within the next 20 years.

The report catalogues progress to date on policy, regulatory reforms, and strategic public investments, and describes the Atlantic region's place in an international race to develop offshore wind.

Some highlights from the report specific to Maine include:

• Offshore Wind Potential: The U.S. Department of Energy identified approximately 157 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy potential within 50 nautical miles of Maine's coast. The State of Maine estimate is slightly lower; they identify 149 GW potential within 50 nautical miles, or enough to power nearly 40 million homes.

• Status of Offshore Wind Energy Permitting Process: Statoil North America has proposed a floating-turbine pilot with four turbines, each three megawatts, located 12 nautical miles off the coast from Boothbay Harbor. Federal and state permitting and regulatory authorities are reviewing the proposal and soliciting public input.

• Policy & Law: Maine law requires utilities to produce 40 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2017, 10 percent of which must come from new renewable energy projects. Maine also participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. State legislation that sets a goal of producing 5 GW of electricity from offshore wind turbines by 2030 is also in place.