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Wind power in Maine propped up

Maine's pursuit of renewable energy got a stiff tailwind from two directions Thursday. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that a consortium led by the University of Maine has been awarded as much as $8 million to develop technology to harness winds and deploy two floating, offshore turbines in the Gulf of Maine. Also Thursday, Gov. John Baldacci's office announced it would help start up the first half of a Kibby Mountain wind power project.

Maine's pursuit of renewable energy got a stiff tailwind from two directions Thursday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that a consortium led by the University of Maine has been awarded as much as $8 million to develop technology to harness winds and deploy two floating, offshore turbines in the Gulf of Maine.

Also Thursday, Gov. John Baldacci's office announced it would help start up the first half of a Kibby Mountain wind power project in the state's western mountains today.

The announcements came a day after at least two foreign business groups said they plan to visit Maine to explore new wind power investment possibilities in the wake of the governor's trade mission to Spain, Germany and Norway last month.

Taken together, the announcements signal that investors in wind power see the potential to make the renewable power commercially viable -- and that Maine could be at the forefront of wind farm development.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced it would fund three wind-power projects, but the "DeepCwind" consortium led by UMaine is the only deepwater project among them.

"That means that the Department of Energy has recognized that Maine has a special niche that would... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Maine's pursuit of renewable energy got a stiff tailwind from two directions Thursday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that a consortium led by the University of Maine has been awarded as much as $8 million to develop technology to harness winds and deploy two floating, offshore turbines in the Gulf of Maine.

Also Thursday, Gov. John Baldacci's office announced it would help start up the first half of a Kibby Mountain wind power project in the state's western mountains today.

The announcements came a day after at least two foreign business groups said they plan to visit Maine to explore new wind power investment possibilities in the wake of the governor's trade mission to Spain, Germany and Norway last month.

Taken together, the announcements signal that investors in wind power see the potential to make the renewable power commercially viable -- and that Maine could be at the forefront of wind farm development.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced it would fund three wind-power projects, but the "DeepCwind" consortium led by UMaine is the only deepwater project among them.

"That means that the Department of Energy has recognized that Maine has a special niche that would help to contribute to the development of alternative energy for our country," said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "We have unique capabilities that the Department of Energy is recognizing."

Maine's congressional delegation set up a meeting in June between Chu and state and university officials. That meeting led Gov. John Baldacci, UMaine professor Habib Dagher and representatives from Collins' office to meet StatoilHydro officials in Norway last month.

StatoilHydro has built and deployed the world's first deepwater wind turbine, about six miles off the coast of Norway.

Maine is "an ideal place to actually test this type of technology," Chu said Thursday. "If it proves to work, one could deploy tremendous wind resources."

Chu said wind power has the potential to provide 20 percent of the nation's electricity and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. "We need to position the United States as the clear leader in this industry, or watch these high-paying jobs go overseas," he said.

UMaine plans to use the $8 million to design and deploy two 10-kilowatt and one 100-kilowatt deepwater wind turbine prototypes.

Two turbines will be at UMaine's deepwater offshore test site, to be chosen in December.

The other will be operated and evaluated in the Isles of Shoals by the University of New Hampshire.

The consortium plans to explore using composite materials for the platform structure and blades. The work fits in with the university's renowned Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

"Maine continues to lead and it is a testament to the University of Maine that the secretary of energy has identified it as a cornerstone for America's clean energy revolution," said U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

Snowe said the $8 million grant could help support as many as 430 jobs in the short term.

If an offshore wind energy sector becomes a reality in Maine -- complete with fabrication of turbines and blades -- as many as 16,700 people could be employed, she said.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, noted that Maine has the offshore wind and the "expertise and ingenuity" of generations of boat builders and commercial fisherman who could build and service offshore wind farms.

StatoilHydro is one of the companies expected to visit in mid-November on the heels of Baldacci's trade mission. Company officials want to further the agreement with the university while in Maine, and also plan to tour various companies that might be involved in manufacturing and erecting such a turbine.

A Spanish investment group plans to visit Maine in late fall or early winter to look at the potential for onshore wind farms in the state, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, director of the Maine International Trade Center.

Bisaillon-Cary spoke to about 16 business people who went on the trade mission and gathered Wednesday at the Blaine House to discuss what they had accomplished on the mission.

Bisaillon-Cary said companies on the trade mission, which was focused on wind power, are projecting about $18 million in potential contracts and sales generated by the trip -- more than double any other trade mission.

The companies included Bath Iron Works, Cianbro Corp., Reed & Reed Construction, James W. Sewall Co., Larkin Enterprises, Sullivan & Merritt, Sargent Corp., Central Maine Power Co. and Sprague Energy.

Steve Levesque, director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority which is seeking to redevelop the soon-to-be-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station, said he met with companies in hopes of attracting investment or businesses to the base. He was particularly interested in an industrial park the group toured in Bremerhaven, Germany, that was geared to wind power companies.

"It really became pretty clear to us we can replicate what they've done in Bremerhaven in the Brunswick area," Levesque said.

Today, Baldacci will join state and local government officials and builders of TransCanada's project to inaugurate the first power flowing from the Kibby Mountain wind farm site.

The ceremony will mark completion of the first 22 windmills at the remote Franklin County site. Power will flow to Central Maine Power Co. and through its interconnections to the New England grid.

The second 22 windmills in the project, on nearby Kibby Ridge, are scheduled for completion in late summer or early fall of next year.

The portion of the project to be dedicated Friday will provide the equivalent average energy needs for 25,000 homes. When all 44 windmills are complete, the Kibby will provide twice that power and become New England's largest wind power project. It has an overall cost of $320 million.

Maine already has major operating wind farms, in Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain, both owned by FirstWind of Newton, Mass.

Expansion of the Stetson project in eastern Maine is under way, and construction of a project near Rumford in western Maine, whose principals include former Gov. Angus King, is also in progress.

State regulators have approved plans for FirstWind's Rollins wind-power project in northern Maine, and several other projects are in earlier stages of planning.


Source: http://morningsentinel.main...

OCT 16 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/22692-wind-power-in-maine-propped-up
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