June 18, 2018
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Waldo County communities collaborate to bring wind development their way

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

BELFAST, Maine — While many communities in Maine may have a firm reputation for being independent-minded, three midcoast towns are betting that it will be better for them in the long run to work together when it comes to economic development potential.

For several months, officials from Belfast, Searsport and Stockton Springs have been collaborating to make sure that their region is able to take advantage of the offshore wind industry development they believe will be be coming to Maine.

“We’re looking at it from a regional point of view, instead of what’s good for Stockton, what’s good for Belfast, what’s good for Searsport,” Stockton Springs Town Manager Joe Hayes said Wednesday. “We all stand to gain, instead of saying ‘me, me, me,’ if we work as a ‘we.’”

Toward that end, the towns have asked Habib Dagher, head of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, to speak to elected officials and interested members of the public on Tuesday, May 31, about the regional possibilities in wind.

“We’ve asked Dr. Dagher to come to excite the public and our elected officials about this industry’s potential to dramatically impact our regional economy in a beneficial way,” Thomas Kittredge, Belfast’s economic development director, said in a press release.

Hayes, Kittredge and others believe that the deep-water port at Mack Point in Searsport will be the region’s most important draw for companies which might invest in offshore wind-related manufacturing or transportation. The port is located on a rail line and enjoys fairly close proximity to Bangor and Interstate 95 via Route 1A.

“Mack Point is going to be our ace in the hole,” Kittredge said Tuesday. “Because this is such a massive opportunity, it’s worth it even if it isn’t located directly in Belfast.”

Last fall, representatives from each town had an extensive meeting with Dagher to talk about what the development of that industry might mean for the state.

Dagher and other Maine researchers have recently been in the Netherlands working at one of the world’s most advanced offshore wind turbine testing facilities.

The DeepCwind Consortium plans to have enough deepwater turbines in place far off the coast of Maine to generate 5 gigawatts of power for the state by 2030, according to previous BDN reports. That is the rough equivalent of the output of two nuclear power plants.

In contrast to shallow-water turbines, which are sunk into the ocean floor, deepwater turbines would be built onshore and hauled out to the windfarm site.

“Obviously, there’s going to be potential for manufacturing and all the support jobs that go with manufacturing. Maybe some engineering. I think good jobs, definitely,” Searsport Town Manager James Gillway said.

Hayes said that Stockton Springs, which does not have a wastewater treatment plant, likely would not be a manufacturing hub. Instead, it could provide housing for industry workers and perhaps also be home to some spinoff industries.

“This is an exciting approach to try,” he said. “If we’re going to be the leader in this, we’re going to entice some of these companies to build stuff locally, with our work force. We want to promote the region.”

Being regionally focused may come a bit more easily to towns in Waldo County, Gillway said. When credit-card giant MBNA came to Belfast years ago, the whole county enjoyed some economic growth, he said.

“I think it had to be demonstrated in a big way, but we know the value now,” he said. “As the three communities want to demonstrate, we can work together — and we will work together.”

Dagher will speak about offshore wind 1:30-3:30 pm. Tuesday, May 31, at the Belfast City Boathouse at 34 Commercial Street. Seating for the free event is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please contact Thomas Kittredge at 338-3370, ext. 8 or economicdevelopment@cityofbelfast.org.

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