At a time when millions of gallons of oil are pouring into the Gulf of Mexico threatening to destroy the environment, wildlife habitat and regional economy, it’s hard not to think about what we can do as a nation and as a state to decrease our dependence on oil and step up progress toward alternative sources of renewable energy.
On June 8, Maine voters will have an opportunity to cast a vote for energy independence and green jobs. Question 2, a $26.5 million bond package, will support the development of offshore wind and help make Maine’s public colleges and universities more energy efficient. In addition, the bond will generate $24.5 million in federal and other matching funds and will lay important groundwork for new green industries and jobs for Maine people.
Question 2 allocates $15.5 million for energy efficiency improvements within the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy. Many older buildings on our campuses require significant investment to make them more energy efficient, to retrofit heating systems and to im-prove air quality. Bond funds for these critically important projects will enable the colleges and universities to help control tuition, and to focus scarce resources on teaching and learning and to decrease both short- and long-term energy costs.
Question 2 also would allocate $11 million in funding for research, development and product innovation associated with developing a deep water wind energy test site located some 20 to 50 miles offshore. The site would be the first deep water site in the country to test floating wind turbines, placing Maine at the forefront of U.S. deep water wind technology and our nation’s largest ocean energy resource. Also included in the bond is funding for robotics equipment to accelerate wind components manufacturing in Maine.
The offshore wind test site would move Maine toward a new green industry, with 15,000 new jobs anticipated long term. The project has the potential to benefit dozens of Maine companies and their employees, and would enable Maine to position itself as a leader in a promising new industry. The research project would be headed by University of Maine engineering professor Habib Dagher and his research team, as well as professors from Maine Maritime Academy, and would offer Maine students and college graduates exciting opportunities to participate in and benefit from research and development efforts.
Passage of the energy-efficiency bond will generate economic activity; make more cost-effective and energy- efficient use of Maine’s public higher education infrastructure and make an investment in the further development of a renewable and alternative source of energy. By saying yes to Question 2, we can do our part to lower energy use and make Maine a more environmentally responsible and economically vibrant state.
Richard Pattenaude is chancellor of the University of Maine System. John Fitzsimmons is president of the Maine Community College System. William Brennan is president of Maine Maritime Academy.