Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Energy Secretary to discuss funding Maine wind research center

U.S. Energy Secretary accepts Senator Collins' invitation to discuss plans for national offshore wind research center at University of Maine

Senator Susan Collins today announced that U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu will meet with University of Maine Professor Habib Dagher this week to discuss proposed plans to establish a National Offshore Wind Research Center at the University of Maine. Maine Governor John Baldacci, Senator Olympia Snowe and Congressman Mike Michaud are also expected to attend the meeting, which is scheduled for Friday, June 5 at the Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“I am convinced that investments in energy independence combined with American determination and ingenuity will enable us to build a stronger economy as we achieve energy security,” said Senator Collins. “This is a tremendous opportunity and that is why I am delighted that Secretary Chu has accepted my invitation to discuss the key role that the State of Maine and the University of Maine could play in the development of offshore wind technology.”

As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Collins led a hearing in July 2008 at which Professor Dagher spoke of the potential for wind power to supply as much as 40 percent of the nation’s energy, calling the Gulf of Maine the “Saudi Arabia of Wind.” Having deep, offshore wind production, out-of-sight from land, provides an affordable source of renewable energy directly to the country’s population centers on each coast while supplying thousands of new jobs. In addition, it would diversify Maine’s electricity supply so that people could switch from using oil to heat homes to heat pumps. At the hearing, Professor Dagher stated that with proper investment we are only five to seven years away from developing the proper technology.

Senator Collins invited Secretary Chu to meet and discuss “renewable energy and energy efficiency demonstration projects in the State of Maine, which could serve as a national model for the green energy economy.”

Following is the text of Senator Collins’ letter to Secretary Chu requesting the meeting.

April 28, 2009

The Honorable Steven Chu Secretary Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Secretary Chu:

I am writing on behalf of Maine Governor John Baldacci and University of Maine Professor Habib Dagher to request a meeting with you to discuss renewable energy and energy efficiency demonstration projects in the State of Maine, which could serve as a national model for the green energy economy.

With 80 percent of homes using heating oil, Maine is extremely vulnerable to rising crude oil prices. By 2018, the cost of energy, the sum of gasoline plus heating oil plus electricity could consume as much as 40 percent of the average Maine household's income. Maine has, however, abundant natural resources to generate clean renewable energy, particularly wind energy. Professor Dagher estimates that Maine has the equivalent of 40 nuclear power plants of offshore wind energy within 50 nautical miles of its coast. The wind is so powerful off the coast of Maine that on the average, a wind turbine in the Gulf of Maine can generate twice the energy that the same turbine will generate in the Kansas-Texas wind corridor.

Considering that the majority of the U.S. population lives in coastal states, offshore wind energy could be a significant part of our nation's energy future. The U.S. has nearly 2,500 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind potential within 50 nautical miles, but more than half of this resource, about 1,500 GW, is in waters deeper than 200 feet. Unlocking this vast energy potential requires the development of next generation fixed foundation offshore wind turbine technologies, as well as testing of floating platforms prototypes.

The State of Maine would like the opportunity to propose to you a Maine-Department of Energy partnership to establish a National Offshore Wind Research Center in Maine. Maine is an ideal place for this center since nearly nine percent of the U.S. deepwater offshore wind energy is in the Gulf of Maine. Governor Baldacci is prepared to offer legislation to expedite the selection of an offshore wind test site and has proposed a bond package to help jump-start the development of this technology, which would complement a partnership with the Department of Energy. Researchers at the University of Maine's world leading Advanced Structures and Composites Center already work with your National Renewable Energy Laboratory on offshore wind technologies.
Estimates are that development of just 5 GW of offshore wind in Maine could attract $20 billion of investment to the state and can create over 15,000 jobs green energy jobs that will be sustained over 30 years. Together with a massive weatherization program, and conversion to electric heating pumps and electric vehicles, the state plans to transform its economy, and become the Greenest State in the U.S.

Thank you for your consideration of my request for a meeting to discuss this exciting proposal. My staff will contact your scheduler to discuss the matter further. I look forward to working with you on this and other renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.

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