In Washington, D.C., today, a cadre of Maine dignitaries — our Congressional delegation, Gov. John Baldacci and UMaine professor Habib Dagher — will meet Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss the state and university’s place in the energy economy.
Maine has an endless coastline and vast swaths of open ocean, perfect for harnessing electricity from the wind. The University of Maine, as well, is billed as the perfect place for an offshore wind research and development facility.
We weren’t invited to this meeting (the invitation must have been lost in the mail) but if we were there, we’d support all initiatives to propel Maine into national leadership on clean energy.
The state’s competitive advantage is its natural resources; if Maine can utilize them smartly to develop energy, this should lead to prosperity. Then, as a purveyor of this clean electrical power to urban markets hungry for juice, Maine also can’t help but gain.
Yet, eventually, this potential must be realized. Maine’s competitive advantage could be neutralized if other states, even those with lesser potential for power production, develop generation first to serve the markets Maine needs to prosper.
This is a concern. Many states have coastlines. Maybe not as much as Maine, but our impressive ability to generate electricity is valueless unless the conditions are created to harness it.
So far, however, these conditions in Maine remain concepts. On Thursday, Gov. Baldacci did sign new ocean energy legislation to establish five offshore testing areas, by December, for companies that wish to experiment with energy technology.
There is also a $7.5 million bond initiative pending to construct an offshore testing site, and the upcoming Energy Ocean Conference in Rockport — a major event for Maine — that should bring together some of the country’s best and brightest energy technology and economic minds.
Still, there is an unsettling theme running through all of these things: Potential. Experiment. Testing. Research. These words describe nascent stages of development, which given the competition in the energy economy, is not somewhere Maine can afford to languish.
Other states are moving forward. We’ve written about Rhode Island, which shares a $1.5 billion offshore wind project with a New Jersey company, Deepwater Wind, which included the establishment of a turbine manufacturing facility — and hundreds of new jobs — at an old naval air station.
This story is also true in Delaware (a $1.6 billion project with Bluewater Wind), New York, New Jersey and in Massachusetts, which pioneered offshore energy — or at least the debate about it — with Cape Wind’s proposal for turbines in Nantucket Sound.
If developed right, Maine wind can outstrip all these projects. We can lead the nation. At some point, however, these glowing assessments of ability must transform into brilliant action, as other states have taken. Otherwise, Maine will have its potential seized by somebody else.

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