Investments in wind energy are smart for Maine

The University of Maine was recently awarded a highly competitive grant to develop offshore, floating wind turbines to be deployed off of the Maine coast.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced the award last week and congratulated the university on its cutting-edge work.

The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center in Orono has been working on technology for several years, ever since then-Gov. John Baldacci announced in 2009 that Maine would produce 3,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2020. Baldacci, along with other state officials, pushed to develop offshore technology at the time. Baldacci’s Office of Energy Independence led the effort.

Now that work has gotten a boost, and hopefully, it will jump-start the university’s efforts to create a viable floating wind turbine. According to Pingree, the $4 million grant will help the university deploy two 6-megawatt floating turbines off the Maine coast in 2015.

It is important, however, that the private sector step up to make offshore wind power a reality in Maine and elsewhere along the coast.

Wind turbines are expensive to produce, and much infrastructure will need to be built to bring the energy from the turbines on shore for use powering people’s homes and businesses. Although this will be a costly venture, with a combination of public and private funding, it can become a reality. After the initial investment in infrastructure and turbines, the cost to maintain the site and equipment should become more manageable.

People are ready for clean energy as well. The popularity of buy local and farm-to-table efforts have shown us that Americans are ready to pay a little more for U.S.-made goods and to support industries that employ other Americans. Maine has really taken to these efforts, with restaurants purchasing much of their food from local farms as well as small businesses pledging to get their products from as close to home as possible.

Sourcing our energy from this country’s coast is the next logical step. We’re pleased Maine is continuing its efforts to lead the country to energy independence and we hope the support of the University of Maine and the industry will continue.