Energy Secretary Steven Chu praised the University of Maine on Monday, calling the school's offshore wind technology program "truly impressive."
Secretary Chu visited the university's Orono campus to learn more about its 10-year plan to design and deploy deepwater wind technology, an effort that could pave the way for the first floating commercial wind farm in the United States.
"It's part of the leadership Maine has shown in going toward a sustainable economy," Chu told the university's newspaper.
Invited by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Chu was given a tour of the university's Advanced Structures and Composites Center by director Habib Dagher, who briefed the secretary on offshore technologies being tested there. Collins and Maine Gov. John Baldacci also attended the 45-minute tour of the laboratory.
At the American Wind Energy Association conference in Dallas, Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Cathy Zoi said the DOE is working with other federal organizations on offshore wind standards to support wind energy deployment.
The University of Maine-led DeepCwind Consortium National Research Program received $7.1 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in October to develop offshore wind turbine performance and reliability improvements.
As part of that research, DeepCWind is collecting data and testing out three different platform types capable of supporting a 120 kW wind turbine. The prototype will be tested at the University of Maine Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site, which is about three miles south of Monhegan Island.
To date, there have only been two floating wind farms in the world, a decommissioned, demonstration farm off the coast of Italy and a 2.4 MW floating turbine off of Norway, which supplies energy to the ountry's grid. There are currently no commercial offshore wind farms in the United States.
Dagher and his colleagues have estimated that offshore wind energy projects could create up to 15,000 jobs a year between 2020 and 2030 if floating wind farms are up and running in the Gulf of Maine.
"We must expand and diversify American energy resources and, in doing so, improve our environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and spur the creation of green energy jobs," said Collins last week when announcing Chu's visit. "And Maine can lead the way."