May 2021

By Ramona du Houx

The University of Maine’s VolturnUS offshore wind scale model prototype was helped by a MTI bond backed grant, then federal grants followed. Today the project is America’s leading offshore floating wind technology.

The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) began soliciting proposals for the Maine Clean Energy Innovation Challenge that was announced by Governor Janet Mills on Earth Day. In collaboration with the Governor’s Energy Office, MTI developed the challenge to catalyze the deployment of innovative clean energy technology solutions in Maine.

During the Baldacci administration grants for innovative technologies came from MTI, funded by bonds the people of Maine voted on. The program successfully helped many businesses advance the clean energy economy. The University of Maine’s VolturnUS offshore wind scale model prototype was helped by a MTI bond backed grant, then federal grants followed. Today the project is America’s leading offshore floating wind technology.

Now, MTI has established this $500,000 grant program to encourage clean energy startups and businesses to propose innovative, scalable solutions that will help meet the climate and clean energy goals of the state. MTI endeavors to help bring to market advanced technologies and services across the clean energy and climate spectrum (energy generation, energy efficiency, clean transportation, energy storage, data or software for energy management and innovative combinations of the aforementioned).

This program will be the second Emerging Technology Challenge administered by MTI, following the initial successful pilot program focused on Maine’s forest resources launched in 2019 that resulted in $1.5 million invested in two natural resource-based technologies.

“MTI supports and funds projects in Maine’s seven targeted technology sectors, including environmental technologies and, specifically, clean energy innovation,” said Brian Whitney, MTI’s President. “Undeniably, the clean energy sector is growing rapidly, and MTI looks forward to identifying high-potential, impactful projects that will ensure that Maine continues to be part of this growth.”

The Maine Clean Energy Innovation Challenge will leverage statewide initiatives that are currently underway, including the Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy report that was issued in November 2020 by the Governor’s Energy Office and the Office of Policy Innovation & the Future.

That plan offers a detailed analysis of the momentum within Maine’s clean energy economy, and how the sector is emerging as a source of economic growth and workforce opportunities to help the state’s recovery from the economic disruption of COVID-19.

Last December, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year climate action plan titled Maine Won’t Wait. That plan, developed by a 39-member team of leaders, experts and advocates with input from thousands more, suggests climate action steps to create economic opportunities for Maine, such as encouraging the growth of the clean energy economy.

“To build a lasting and thriving clean energy sector, Maine must attract and support new companies with innovative ideas to advance clean energy and strengthen our economy,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “The Maine Clean Energy Innovation Challenge show entrepreneurs and innovators that Maine is serious about sustained investment in the clean energy economy to create jobs, fight climate change, and protect this state we call home for generations to come.”

Eligible companies shall be startups or small businesses engaged in clean energy innovation in Maine, or those currently located elsewhere looking to develop in Maine. Investments will be awarded to technologies or services that advance innovative solutions and have growth potential.

Submissions are due by June 18, 2021 and should be submitted to MTI via its website.

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