The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to dedicate $20 million to develop and test deep-water offshore wind technology, a decision that’s expected to direct more federal research money to Maine.

Friday’s announcement followed a visit this month by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to a deep-water wind research lab at the University of Maine.

The visit came at the request of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who said the new commitment marks the first time the department has dedicated funding for deep-water offshore wind energy research and development.

“Given its significant work and advancements in research in this area, the University of Maine is well positioned to receive this funding,” Collins said.

Collins invited Chu to visit the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, to see the work being done to advance offshore wind energy development. Collins previously secured a total of $25 million for the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative at UMaine.

The funding announcement was welcomed by Habib Dagher, director of the composites center. He said the money will help Maine meet its goal of building the world’s first floating wind turbine, a $60 million project scheduled for 2012.

“This is a game changer,” he said.

The president’s earlier budget request was sent to the Congress before Chu’s visit to Maine and didn’t include the specific funding. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Collins said, she will work to ensure that “the lion’s share of these funds go to UMaine, which leads the nation in deep-water offshore wind energy development.”

Collins said she’s delighted by the funding commitment and called it a “vital step that will help harness the vast potential of deep-water offshore wind energy and lead to the potential creation of some 15,000 new jobs.”

In a letter to Collins announcing the $20 million commitment, a top Department of Energy official described Chu’s visit to UMaine as “informative and inspiring.”

The letter said: “We look forward to continuing our work together to harness the power of deep-water wind and pave the way for energy independence and job creation in Maine and across the country.”

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: [email protected]