AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci invited members of Maine’s energy and construction industries Tuesday to celebrate the passage of five bills that he said will bring Maine closer to energy independence.

Baldacci reminded the crowd that Maine is one of the most oil-depedent states, using fossil fuels for 80 to 86 percent of its overall energy needs. The new laws, he said, will help drive production of renewable energy in the state, keeping money here and helping to restore the economy.

“We’ve got to get into more control,” he said, “and make sure that those resources are local and not long distance.”

The five bills are:

L.D. 1786, the “energy corridor bill,” which steers future energy pathways to corridors along the state’s interstate highway system and a corridor from Searsport to Loring, and establishes a system to guarantee that new energy infrastructure benefits the state.

L.D. 1535, which creates a “smart grid” to modernize Maine’s transmission and distribution system to increase reliability, maximize efficiencies and lay the groundwork to take advantage of cyclical variations in electricity use in a future energy world that may include car-charging stations.

L.D. 1717, the PACE bill, establishing a lending tool that municipalities can extend to home or business owners who want to borrow money repayable with property taxes to weatherize buildings, create efficiencies or install alternative energy generators.

L.D. 1504, the “tangible benefits bill,” which defines $4,000 per turbine annually, in addition to property taxes, the minimum investment a wind development company must offer a municipality that agrees to host a wind farm.

L.D. 1810, the “ocean energy bill,” incorporating recommendations of a bipartisan task force to set a goal of producing 5 gigawatts of electricity — more than twice the state’s maximum current use — from renewable ocean resources, mostly wind, by 2030.

There is enough offshore wind energy within 50 miles of the United States to supply all of the nation’s energy, and 8 percent of that capacity is off the coast of Maine, said professor Habib Dagher of University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

Dagher said Maine’s new laws give it a chance to be a leader in building floating offshore wind farms.

The university, with federal funding, will build, deploy and test a floating wind turbine to be launched in the spring of 2012 some 2 miles south of Monhegan Island, where it will float in water 400 feet deep for two to three months. It will be the first floating turbine in the United States, Dagher said.

Next, the winner of a competitive bidding process will build a 25-megawatt offshore wind farm, probably starting with a single turbine built and launched by 2014. The Public Utilities Commission will conduct the bidding beginning in September.

the time the small offshore farm is built, Dagher said, 320 new jobs can be expected annually from the new industry, assuming that Maine’s marine and manufacturing businesses are able to build everything that goes into the turbines except the generators themselves, which typically are built by GE, Siemens AG, or the Danish company Vestas.

the time Maine is able to build a 500- to 1,000-megawatt farm, Dagher said, the state can expect 4,500 new jobs each year. He said representatives of companies producing wind turbine generators have told him that they would consider building factories in Maine when they can anticipate such a large local market.

 

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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