Global ocean energy talk set in Rockport

Posted Aug. 23, 2008, at 12:05 a.m.

Hundreds of alternative energy developers, researchers and policymakers from around the globe will converge on Rockport next year to discuss how to tap into the world’s oceans to meet the growing demand for clean energy.

Gov. John Baldacci’s office announced Friday that the sixth annual EnergyOcean Conference will be held at the Samoset Resort from June 16 to 18. Baldacci predicted that the conference will give Maine a chance to showcase the state’s potential.

“These are natural resources that are abundant in Maine,” the governor said in a statement. “It is exciting and encouraging to me that we will be hosting some of the most forward-thinking individuals on ocean energy in our state next summer.”

The governor’s office had announced in June that Maine would host the conference but did not specify a location. Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development was a co-sponsor of the 2008 EnergyOcean conference, held in Galveston, Texas.

More than 300 developers, project financiers, researchers and government representatives typically attend EnergyOcean conferences, which explore ways to generate electricity from the wind, tides and waves, currents, the sun and algae and other biomass in the ocean.

Maine is well positioned to benefit from the development of ocean-based energy technologies.

Experts estimate that more than 100,000 megawatts of potential wind energy are available in the Gulf of Maine alone. Winds in the gulf blow steady year-round but are especially strong during winter, when energy needs are highest in Maine.

The problem is tapping into that massive energy source.

While wind turbines have been deployed in numerous spots in the shallow waters of some European countries, the waters off of Maine’s coast are deep and the surface conditions brutal for much of the year. The challenge is developing deep-water wind turbine platforms capable of operating in such an environment.

One Boston-based company says it is developing plans to deploy demonstration deep-water platforms for wind turbines off the coasts of both Massachusetts and Maine.

Maine’s coastal waters also offer tremendous potential for generating energy from tides. One company, Ocean Renewable Power Co., has a pilot tidal energy project off Eastport in Passamaquoddy Bay.

The governor’s office said Maine’s proximity to Nova Scotia will allow the state to partner with Canadian groups to make the EnergyOcean conference a strong North American event.

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