ORONO — A $3 million federal grant to a University of Maine research center will be used for another piece of the puzzle in building windmills to harness the bountiful winds off Maine’s coast to produce energy.

Habib Dagher of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center says the money will be used for a lab station where prototype blades and towers will be made out of experimental materials to withstand off-shore stresses.

He says “a very large robot” that can weld, paint and perform other mechanical work will be used in building the windmill parts. Shaped like a large, inverted “U,” the robot will travel up and down a 200-foot track.

The station is one of several at the center’s Offshore Wind Laboratory, which formally opens in November.