Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senate approves $5 million for UMaine wind research, other projects

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has successfully secured $6,600,000 in federal funding for four Maine projects, including the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative at the University of Maine and solar energy development at the University of Maine Presque Isle. This funding is included in the fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water Senate Appropriations bill which was approved tonight by the full Senate. The final vote was 85-9.

"I am particularly excited about a proposal to establish a National Center for Deepwater Offshore Wind Research at the University of Maine," said Senator Collins, who is the only member of Maine's congressional delegation to serve on an Appropriations Committee. "I am proud to secure federal funding to support critical wind energy research that is underway at the University of Maine. This has the potential to diversify Maine's energy supply, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of new jobs.

"In addition, this federal funding would provide critical assistance to the University of Maine at Presque Isle that will help reduce the school's energy costs while reducing its energy footprint," Senator Collins said.

In June, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu agreed to Senator Collins' request and met with Maine Governor John Baldacci and the rest of Maine's Congressional delegation who requested federal support for the creation of a National Center for Deepwater Offshore Wind Research at the University of Maine. Estimates are that the development of just five gigawatts of offshore wind in Maine could attract $20 billion of investment to the state and could create more than 15,000 green energy jobs that would be sustained over 30 years.

Specifically, the federal funding that Senator Collins secured in the FY 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill includes:

* University of Maine, Offshore Wind Initiative: $5,000,000

* University of Maine at Presque Isle, Solar Energy Development, Presque Isle: $800,000

This project would cover the design and installation of photo-voltaic solar panel arrays at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Additionally, the establishment of an automated weather station to collect information on solar radiation levels in this northern region will provide needed baseline data for future use of solar energy and promote undergraduate research. The project will reduce electrical energy costs to the university, eliminate or reduce the need for additional air conditioning, provide a research and educational focus for the campus, and serve as a regional model for other businesses and schools.

* Town of Machiasport dredge project: $750,000

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided $1,012,000 in Army Corps funding for Bucks Harbor dredging in Machiasport. In order to deepen the harbor under the Section 107 authority, the Army Corps needs funding to first remove the maintenance shoal material that lies on top. If operation and maintenance funding is not provided, the project is in danger of losing its ARRA funds. Bucks Harbor supports an active commercial fishery and retention of this fleet is important to the economic vitality of the town. The harbor is also the site of a large aquaculture operation focused on raising salmon.

* Town of Tremont dredge project: $60,000

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $1,386,000 in Army Corps funding for Bass Harbor dredging. Funds for operation and maintenance are needed to complete the project. The existing Federal Navigation Project for Bass Harbor was authorized by the Chief of Engineers May 7, 1962 under the continuing authority of Section 107 and was completed in August 1964. Federal funding of this project will contribute to economic development that is consistent with protecting the environment of Bass Harbor.

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