Around 200 people gathered in Northport Tuesday to learn more about offshore wind power. The goal of the first ever Deepwater Offshore Wind Conference is to educate people about the advances in technology and what it could mean for Maine.Dr. Habib Dagher is the Director of the Advanced Structures & Composite Center at the University of Maine and has spear headed this project from the beginning. “As you know, Maine has the equivalent of 150 nuclear power plants worth of wind within 50 nautical miles. It’s one of our largest renewable resources and the goal of this effort is to figure out how to harness it cost effectively while we protect the environment and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” says Dagher.By the summer of 2012, Dagher and the rest of his team hope to have the first floating wind turbine off the coast of the United States near Monhegan Island. By 2016, the goal is to have a 5 turbine, 25 megawatt wind farm up and running. It would be the first of its kind in the world. “We send away every year the equivalent of twice the state’s total budget, $5 billion leaving the state every year in fossil fuel costs,” says Dagher. “How do we keep some of that money in Maine? By generating our own energy. If we kept only 20% of that here in Maine that would create 7-15,000 jobs per year.”Cianbro President Peter Vigue delivered the keynote presentation. He says this project could get Mainer’s back to work. “I believe that the workforce that we currently have in the state of Maine, and the people of Maine have tremendous aptitude and tremendous skills and it’s a matter of attracting these young people to this industry and engaging them.” Part of that plan is the Windstorm Challenge. A group of high school students spent their summer in the lab at the University of Maine creating floating wind turbine designs. Jacob Ward is a senior at Hampden Academy and took part in the challenge. “It really teaches everybody how the stuff you learn in school can be applied to real life and it gets everybody interested in what’s happening in the world,” says Ward.Brian Carr, a senior at Brewer High School, also participated in the Windstorm Challenge and he hopes to study with Dr. Dagher in Orono after he graduates. “After the program I know I want to go to school for engineering. I love the whole opportunity and we were able to work in the lab and work with some real engineers and it was just a great opportunity,” Carr says.