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Business | State | Monday, June 14th, 2010, 6:56 pm

U.S. secretary of energy tours offshore energy efforts

William P. Davis | Maine Observer
Sen. Susan Collins and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu listen to professor Habib Dagher, foreground, detail some of the University of Maine's technologies for harnessing offshore wind for energy.

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William P. Davis | Maine Observer
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, left, and University of Maine professor Habib Dagher discuss specifics during the secretary's visit Monday to the University of Maine.

ORONO — President Barack Obama’s top energy official toured a University of Maine center focused on developing technologies to harness offshore wind energy and called it “truly impressive” and a “vanguard of technical development.”

The center is “part of the leadership Maine has shown,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “I’ve been impressed with everything that has been happening in Maine.”

The visit came less than a week after Maine voters approved a $26.5 million bond that will in part be used to advance the work at the center, which is known as the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, or AEWC. Gov. John Baldacci, who attended the tour along with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, said approval of the bond was indication that Mainers are behind the work going on at UMaine.

The university is leading a private-public partnership of businesses and nonprofit organizations known as the DeepCwind Consortium that is developing technology to build wind farms in the ocean off the Maine coast. Collins, speaking to reporters after the tour, said the work would ultimately lead to 15,000 new green energy jobs and would help meet the Department of Energy’s goal of generating 20 percent of the nation’s power from wind by 2030.

That goal, Collins said, is “a goal Maine is positioned to help the country meet.”

The group was led by UMaine professor Habib Dagher through a number booths set up detailing the technologies the university and its parters are developing. Chu, a 1997 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, asked many technical questions.

William P. Davis is editor of MaineMedia and a founding editor of the Observer.

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