Senate Subcommittee Approves $10 Million for Deepwater Offshore Wind

ORONO — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced late Tuesday a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee’s initial approval of a $10 million appropriation to support University of Maine deepwater offshore wind energy research and development.

Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, requested the funding. It was approved by the Subcommittee on Energy and Water.

“This is a critical step, and it is the result of Sen. Collins’ determination and her commitment to Maine,” says Prof. Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the lead researcher on this project.”

Collins has supported this work since the beginning, already having helped secure $25 million in federal funding as UMaine works toward developing and testing this technology. Plans call for the first 1/3 scale floating wind turbine to be deployed off Maine for testing in 2012. The additional funding will be used to build, deploy and test a full-scale prototype of a 5 megawatt floating wind turbine, using Maine companies and Maine labor.

“As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Collins has tremendous influence in the funding process and we all appreciate her tireless advocacy on behalf of this initiative,” Dagher adds.

Collins arranged for U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to visit UMaine in June, to learn first-hand about the pioneering efforts of Dagher and his colleagues. Shortly after his return to Washington, Chu announced plans to dedicate $20 million for deepwater offshore wind technology development. Collins has pledged to work toward assuring that “the lion’s share” of those funds are appropriated to UMaine.

A Tuesday news release from Collins’ office called this subcommittee’s action “the first step toward securing the full $20 million investment.” No funds have been included thus far in House counterpart legislation.

The State of Maine Ocean Energy Task Force has set a goal of developing 5,000 megawatts of deepwater offshore wind farms by 2030, equivalent to the energy production of three nuclear power plants. This development represents less than 3 percent of the 150,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity that exists within 50 nautical miles of Maine’s coast. These farms would be placed approximately 20 miles to 50 miles offshore where they would not be visible from land, and where Maine has some of the best and most consistent winds in the country. Such an effort could attract as much as $20 billion of private capital to Maine. The offshore wind industry builds on Maine’s maritime tradition, and could create throusands of jobs across the manufacturing, engineering, permitting, environmental, boatbuilding, construction, maintenance and composite materials sectors.

Contact: Joe Carr at (207) 581-3571