With the development of wind, solar and tidal power generation, biofuels and tax incentives for conservation, the energy sector of the economy promises to be a major job creator in Maine’s future.

And with some help from a federal grant, the University of Southern Maine will be the place where people go to get qualified for those jobs.

USM’s Department of Environmental Science has been awarded a $175,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an applied energy curriculum that will prepare students for a variety of jobs across the energy spectrum.

Students will get hands-on experience measuring wind and solar resources as well as producing and testing sustainable biofuels.

Grant money will also be used to upgrade USM’s lab facilities, which will allow it to become a resource for new energy-related businesses in Southern Maine.

Programs like this show how a university campus can be an economic driver for its host communities.

Maine is going to see big changes in the types of energy we use and the way we use them, and it is going to require new kinds of technicians to build these systems and modify existing buildings. Those workers will be needed and it would be nice if those jobs were filled with people who already live here.

USM, located in the state’s most populated region, is in a unique position to educate people who already have jobs and families and cannot drop everything for more schooling.

This grant is good news, and we expect to hear even more when the curriculum is developed.