Utilizing the state’s natural resources with renewable-energy technologies grows jobs, and Maine’s future

Editorial and photo by Ramona du Houx

October 19, 2009

Maine is moving forward, becoming a clean-energy exporter, as well as an innovator in renewable technologies. With biofuels, high-tech windmills, and other innovations developed at the University of Maine, the state is progressing its international expertise in the green-energy economy.

UMaine’s Composites Center (AEWC) is developing stronger, more durable windmills for offshore and land wind farms. The dedication, sophistication, innovation, and expertise of the center’s research teams has led to composite technologies breakthroughs in a number of fields. But that’s only the beginning of the story. The AEWC Center also works with the private sector to develop their businesses in Maine.

Businesses too are leading the clean-energy charge. Reed & Reed, Inc. were contracted to erect the first Mars Hill wind farm. Since that success, they have taken on other projects and are now New England’s experts in the field. During the economic downturn, their traditional construction projects fell off in orders; at the same time windmill farms have given them record profits.

It takes a village, or in this case a consortium of companies, educational institutions, and public servants, to make the changes Maine needs to see happen. With a $20 million grant, UMaine will be bringing this “village” together to insure that Maine’s quality of life improves for future generations. At the same time, the Maine Wind Industry Initiative is building a diverse consortium to increase clean-energy opportunities. Many of their members joined the governor on the recent wind-energy trade mission to Europe. The Governor, Dr. Dagher of UMaine, and dignitaries, went on to visit the world’s first floating windmill off Norway to establish relationships so similar projects could be built off Maine’s coast.

The mission visited Europe’s leading wind-farm producers in Spain and Germany, who have infused their economies with sustainable jobs in the clean-energy economy. Europe has created 150,000 jobs in this sector, with the majority being in Spain, Germany, and Denmark, where they manufacture windmills.

Maine produces 95 percent of New England’s wind energy.

Growing a clean-energy economy helps the state grow its quality of life. In Oakfield a wind-farm development, with the potential to generate enough electricity to power 20,000 homes, was recently approved by voters. They understand that not only will their electricity rates go down in the future; their quality of life will improve. Because of the new development, a new fire station, road improvements, and a scholarship fund for students from the town who attend a Maine college or university will happen.

From the winds, waves, waterways, and wood, Maine is rich in sustainable energy resources. In the past five years, Maine has invested steadily in research and development, which has helped uncover new, revolutionary, sustainable uses of our natural resources.

Investments have also increased opportunities for Maine’s students with the Graduate School of Biomedical Science at UMaine, as well as new avenues for students to study to become doctors and pharmacists. Investing in Maine’s research and development helps educate students with cutting-edge tools, unleashing their potential as entrepreneurs. This in turn builds our economy, as businesses grow from discoveries made at our universities.

It has long been Governor John Baldacci’s vision to help transform Maine’s economy in this way, by investing in people. He knows the state has a critical role, as proponents of this economic change.

Maine has the distinction of being the only state in the union, during this recession, to lower income taxes for all taxpayers. For people making less than $250,000 a year, rates went from 8.5 percent to 6 percent.

Right now the governor is working to ensure that Maine has the needed transmission lines to transport the electrical energy produced here to market. The transmission corridors are essential for Maine to become a clean-energy exporter, which will bring thousands of sustainable jobs to the state.

Maine will begin to shine as entrepreneurs continue to unlock the hidden potential of the state’s natural resources and the state continues to help foster avenues for the people of Maine to realize their potential.

Continued investment in the people of Maine will spur Maine’s clean-energy revolution and fuel sustainable economic development.