The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it is setting aside $20 million for deepwater, offshore wind energy development, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Friday.

Collins, who invited U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center in Orono for a visit about two weeks ago, said the university is well-positioned to be awarded the funding.

“I had invited Secretary Chu to come to Maine so that he could see firsthand the (research and development) under way at the University of Maine; he was clearly impressed with the technology, the planning and the partnership with private businesses like Cianbro and the Sewall Company,” Collins said in an interview on Friday. “I had been pushing both the secretary and the White House to allocate out of the budget a pod of money to be set aside specifically for supporting deep-water, offshore wind technology and that’s what they’ve agreed to do.”

Collins said if, as expected, Maine is awarded the entire $20 million, it would be the largest nondefense federal investment in the state of Maine, ever, according to her research.

“The reason I’m so excited about this is that I believe it has the potential to transform Maine’s economy and create as many as 15,000 good jobs and make Maine a leader, not just in the United States but in the world in clean energy technology,” she said. “I don’t want the leader in offshore wind to be China or Germany or the Netherlands, I want it to be the state of Maine.”

Already, Maine has obtained about $25 million in federal grants to help develop offshore energy via the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative at UMaine, according to Gov. John Baldacci’s office.

“Maine is well-positioned to compete for these federal resources because of the leadership we have built over the course of the past two years on deep-water offshore wind energy development,” Baldacci said in a statement. “We have worked hard to grow a partnership between the state, Maine’s congressional delegation, private industry and the University of Maine to further develop offshore wind energy.”

Maine voters also recently approved an $11 million bond proposal to make state investments in the wind technology being developed at UMaine.

Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said she expects to begin work on marking up President Obama’s energy budget proposal next week.

“The Energy Appropriations Subcommittee is going to be marking up the appropriations bill for the Department of Energy and I’ve asked for funding to be specifically allocated for the University of Maine,” she said. “The administration’s decision to put aside $20 million will really help me get funding for the university.”

Congress must approve the spending before it can be awarded.

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