Public Hearings Announced For Wind Power Demo Sites 

The Maine Department of Conservation and the State Planning Office has announced 7 areas they’re looking at as possible sites to test a new deepwater technology for harnessing wind power, including one near Ellsworth.Supporters of this techonology say it has the potential to bring thousands of new jobs to the state. Jake Ward is the Assistant Vice President of Research and Economic Development at the University of Maine and he’s one of the people trying to bring the new technology of deep water offshore wind power to Maine. “So the process now is looking at the places that have deep enough water, are within state waters, have high enough winds and aren’t obviously in a shipping channel,” says Ward, “areas we can now focus on and the public meetings are to see what the public thinks about that.” The public meetings will take place in Ellsworth, Wiscasset, Machias, Rockport and Wells and will help to determine what other activities would be disrupted by the wind project. The hope is to have the project paid for with federal money according to Ward. “We have just submitted a proposal to the Department of Energy to build three prototypes and put them in the water and monitor them over time and do all the evaluation…and so that project, as far as the proposal to the Department of Energy stands is about 12 million dollars.”The Obama Administration has set a national goal of 20% wind energy by 2030, and Governor Baldacci wants Maine to host 3000 megawatts of wind energy by 2020, with at least 300 megawatts offshore. While $12 million is a hefty pricetag, Ward says the rewards could be worth it. “Well the ultimate impact is if we can generate locally renewable sustainable electricity and displace foreign oil the long term economic impact is one stabilization of energy prices.”There are only around 10 states that have deep enough water and strong enough winds to support this project. What they’re trying to figure out is whether or not this will make smart business sense for Maine. “Is it economically feasible, that’s part of what we’ve got to figure out,” says Ward, “it becomes more economically feasible the higher the price of oil goes, so really the upside for Maine is really to take the initiative so this happens and our folks get the jobs, the downfall is if they do it in Deleware and we miss the opportunity.”The contruction of the turbines could also provide work for local businesses according to Ward. “The other economic impact is if we can actually establish commercial farms out there and we’re talking about billions of dollars to construct these farms, a lot of the pieces and parts can be made in Maine, so we’re working with companies like Cianbro and Bath Iron Works.”That means the potential for new jobs in Maine. “There would be needs for people who service them, to maintain them, once you put them out there they’re out there for 20 years or so, there’s an ongoing industry to support that and we think it could be 15-20,000 jobs easily for a utility scale commercial farm.”The Public Meetings Schedule:September 9 Ellsworth, Ellsworth Holiday Inn 6:30-9:30September 15 Wiscasset, Wiscasset Community Center 6:30-9:30September 16 Machias, UMaine Machias Performing Arts Center 6:30-9:30September 22 Wells, Wells High School Auditorium 6:30-9:30September 29 Rockport, Samoset Report 6:30-9:30