Administration Commits $20 Million for Deepwater Offshore Wind

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ORONO — The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it will invest an additional $20 million to develop and test deepwater offshore wind technologies.

University of Maine Prof. Habib Dagher credits Sen. Susan Collins’ efforts promote the University of Maine’s pioneering work in this technology development, including her work to arrange a June 14 visit to UMaine by Energy Secretary Chu. The Department of Energy letter to Sen. Collins announcing the $20 million commitment calls Chu’s visit “informative and inspiring.”

Collins has said she will work through the Congressional appropriations process to “ensure that the lion’s share of these funds go to UMaine.” She is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“We are most pleased by this announcement and we are grateful for the support of both Secretary Chu and Sen. Collins,” says UMaine President Robert Kennedy. ”Momentum for deepwater offshore wind energy R&D continues to grow, with UMaine at the forefront of this important work. We are excited about the incredible potential associated with harnessing this resource to create clean energy and clean jobs for Maine while also fostering opportunities for UMaine students both now and in the years to come.”

“This commitment is critical to the success of what is perhaps our state’s most exciting and promising opportunity to lower energy costs and create thousands of good jobs – and we owe this opportunity to Sen. Collins, whose tenacity knows no bounds,” says Dagher, who also serves as principal investigator of DeepCwind Consortium, a broad-based collaborative involving academic institutions, industry leaders, utility companies and non-profit organizations. “This unprecedented level of federal support for a Maine economic development project also demonstrates the importance of deepwater wind to satisfying our nation’s energy demands in the future.”

Collins and the university have previously secured some $25 million in federal funding to support deepwater offshore wind initiatives, in addition to an $11 million bond approved by Maine voters earlier this month and $5 million from the Maine Technology Asset Fund in 2009. The program aims to develop floating deepwater offshore wind turbines using both the UMaine Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site off Monhegan Island and the Offshore Wind Laboratory, an expansion to UMaine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center. That facility is due for completion in the spring of next year.

Maine plans to construct a five gigawatt, $20 billion network of floating offshore wind farms to contribute to the northeast U.S. renewable energy needs. Maine has deep waters near its shores and 89 percent of Maine’s 149 gigawatt offshore wind research is located there. The state also offers extensive maritime industry infrastructure and proximity to one of the largest energy markets in the country.

“With the university, Maine’s business community, the state and the federal government all committed to making Maine the nation’s deepwater wind prototype, we will succeed,” Collins says. “And that success will bring jobs to Maine and clean, renewable power to our homes – and homes throughout New England.”