ORONO, Maine – The University of Maine’s offshore wind testing efforts got a huge boost Friday from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which announced it had awarded $12.4 million for construction costs for the Advanced Nanocomposites in Renewable Energy Laboratory (ANREL) at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, said the grant may be the largest ever awarded UMaine for a laboratory research building.
“This is exciting news for the whole state,” Dagher said Friday morning. “… It’s going to allow us to truly strengthen our leadership role in the area of offshore wind. Without this research facility, we can’t do the research we need to do.”
The grant will be officially announced Friday afternoon at a press conference on the UMaine campus.
The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded the grant. It is being distributed to Maine through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine helped author. The NIST grant awards will support the construction of new scientific research facilities at 11 universities nationwide and will launch more than $250 million in new laboratory construction projects beginning early next year.
UMaine’s new laboratory will be the only such facility in the United States to include complete development capabilities for designing, prototyping and testing large structural hybrid composite and nanocomposite components for the deep water offshore wind energy industry.
The planned 30,000 square foot building will be an addition to the current Advanced Structures and Composite facility located on the UMaine campus. It will serve as a laboratory facility for a materials and engineering research program to further explore offshore wind power.
Maine has an estimated 149 gigawatts of offshore wind energy within 50 nautical miles of its shoreline, according to UMaine.
The new facility will include a nanocomposites laboratory, prototyping space for large composite structures, a large structural testing laboratory with a test stand capable of supporting prototype 70-meter wind blades, and mechanical and environmental testing labs.
The building is expected to be complete in Spring 2011.
“This is another important step forward for clean energy development and job creation in Maine,” U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a release. “The research conducted at the new lab will complement the cutting edge advancements being made at the University of Maine and position our homegrown clean energy industry for future growth. This project represents a win for the local economy with the construction jobs that will be created. It is also a longer-term shot in the arm for Maine’s economy and will capitalize on the potential our waters hold for offshore wind energy production.”
A team including UMaine researchers and about 30 businesses and organizations will work on an off-shore wind turbine prototype at a site near Monhegan Island, the state announced last month. That team recently received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Maine Offshore Wind Energy Research Center, which will be located at the Monhegan Island site.