Three midcoast towns seek opportunities offshore wind power could bring

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff
Posted May 31, 2011, at 9:50 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — With the University of Maine and dozens of companies working to bring offshore wind power to Maine, three Waldo County towns are fighting together to win the jobs the new industry might bring.

Officials from Searsport, Stockton Springs and Belfast listened to Habib Dagher, head of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, on Tuesday at Belfast City Boathouse.

The DeepCwind Consortium, which is made up of the University of Maine and several companies, is working to generate 5 gigawatts of deep offshore wind energy in Maine annually by 2030. That’s the equivalent of what about five nuclear power plants can produce.

To do this, companies will need to set up space along the Maine coast. That might mean manufacturing jobs. It might mean transportation jobs. According to Dagher, whoever makes the turbines likely will need to use a Maine port, Maine boats and Maine people to set up floating turbines off the coast. This could mean big things for communities such as Searsport and Belfast, which already are trying to woo those companies to set up shop.

“Of any of Maine’s ports, we have the best shot at this,” said Thomas Kittredge, Belfast’s director of economic development.

The unusual thing about the three midcoast towns in attendance Tuesday was the atmosphere of cooperation.

“In economic development you usually have towns fighting. We’re working together,” Kittredge said.

This works for Stockton Springs, according to Town Manager Joe Hayes. Stockton Springs doesn’t have the capacity to hold a major wind company, he said. For one thing, the town doesn’t have a wastewater treatment plant.

“We’re looking at it from a regional point of view,” Hayes said. “We help the neighbors.”

Plus, Hayes said, if Searsport or Belfast did land a major wind manufacturer, those workers could move into Stockton Springs homes.

Dick Desmarais, a selectman from Searsport who attended Tuesday’s session, said his town is ready for a wind turbine company to come. For one thing, the town can’t rely on tourism anymore, he said.

“We’re a deep-water port. We have talented people who can do this,” he said. “Now we have to sit down with [wind companies] and show them what we have.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/31/news/midcoast/three-midcoast-towns-seek-opportunities-offshore-wind-power-could-bring/ printed on August 1, 2014