U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has accepted an invitation from Sen. Susan Collins to visit the University of Maine to learn more about its offshore, deepwater wind energy research program, Collins’ office said today. 

Chu and Collins are scheduled to visit the university’s Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center on June 14.

“I believe that deepwater, offshore wind has enormous potential to help us meet our nation’s electricity needs and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Collins said. “But, it also presents an exciting opportunity for the State of Maine to create thousands of much-needed, good-paying ‘green jobs.’ “

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Collins recently requested that a minimum of $20 million be allocated in the fiscal year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill specifically for development and testing of deepwater offshore wind technologies.

Collins has successfully advocated for more than $25 million in deepwater, offshore wind research funding in Maine. Following a meeting that Collins requested last year in Washington, D.C., between Habib Dagher, professor at UMaine, and Chu, the Department of Energy announced an $8 million grant for research at the university. 

In addition, the final version of the 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill included $5 million that Collins secured for the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative at UMaine. Collins also helped secure $12.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology that will be used to construct a new Advanced Nanocomposites in Renewable Energy Laboratory at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

Collins said she believes deepwater, offshore wind energy is a critical investment in Maine’s future. She cited estimates that development of five gigawatts of offshore wind in Maine – enough to power more than 1 million homes for a year — could attract $20 billion of investment to the state and create more than 15,000 green energy jobs that would be sustained over 30 years.

During his visit, Chu will learn more about the state’s 10-year plan for the design, testing and deployment of floating deepwater wind turbine platforms. Specific details of his visit to UMaine will be announced later.