ORONO, Maine — A budget bill that appears headed for final passage in Congress includes $5 million for research and development of offshore wind turbines at the University of Maine in Orono.
The $5 million appropriation is contained in the 2010 energy and water budget bill that already has been approved by the House of Representatives. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked to keep the money in the bill as it was vetted by conferees from both chambers.
Maine’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Baldacci have been pushing for months for federal money for UMaine’s Offshore Wind Initiative. In June, they met with U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu seeking $20 million for a national research center on deep-water offshore wind at the university.
“The University has already made great strides in this research which has the potential to diversify Maine’s energy supply, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and create thousands of new jobs,” Collins, a Republican, said in a statement announcing the grant money.
With its powerful, year-round winds, the Gulf of Maine is regarded as one of the top coastal locations in the U.S. for offshore wind farms. However, the gulf’s deep water and harsh weather conditions present technological challenges.
Under the leadership of Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, university researchers are working to design, manufacture and test floating wind turbine technology.
Late last month, Baldacci traveled to Europe with a group of business leaders to meet with wind power industry representatives there in an effort to attract more interest in the state. The group came back with an agreement with StatoilHydro, a Norwegian firm, to explore the possibility of using the firm’s offshore turbines in the Gulf of Maine.
The state is considering seven locations off the coast of Maine as sites of deep-water wind power test projects. Those sites include areas off Cutler and Jonesport in Washington County, south of Isle au Haut, and near Matinicus, Monhegan, Damariscove and Boon islands.