AUGUSTA — Maine officials hope to convince U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to commit federal money to Maine for renewable energy research and development.
Gov. John Baldacci and members of Maine’s congressional delegation are scheduled to meet with Chu in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud are expected to join University of Maine professor Habib Dagher in promoting Maine’s virtues as an offshore wind power research center.
Dagher, known for his work with wood composite technology, said research shows Maine hosts the equivalent of 40 nuclear power plants worth of wind energy within 50 nautical miles of the coast. “It’s an opportunity to present to (Chu) the Maine plan and form a relationship with the Department of Energy,” Dagher said Tuesday. “We’ve put together a very ambitious plan for the state of Maine, to essentially allow the state to become a national and international leader in wind technology because of the resource in the gulf.”
Collins said the meeting could be a “game-changer” for Maine.
“It’s critical we can demonstrate that we have already done research on wind composite blades and the research on the persistence of wind off the coast,” she said.
Dagher said the university has been developing lightweight materials capable of standing up to ocean conditions for 25 to 30 years in order to take advantage of the gales in the gulf.
“Offshore wind turbines and stations are like big boats, so we’ve also spoken with local boat builders very interested in becoming manufacturers,” he said. “In 10 to 20 years we could create 10,000 jobs in Maine, but you have to do the research and development first.”
Collins said spending federal funds for developing renewable resources in Maine would be a good match.
“I’m optimistic, based on discussions with the White House and the Department of Energy, that the new administration wants to move aggressively on finding alternatives to oil. Our plan and proposal fits in perfectly with their goals,” she said.
Harnessing the gulf’s winds would enhance national energy security, Snowe said in a statement.
State officials have been working to enhance Maine’s chances of getting ahead in the offshore wind market.
In his bond proposal, Baldacci committed $7.5 million for the development of an offshore wind energy demonstration site. The Legislature enacted a measure Tuesday to expedite permitting for such a proposal.

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