By Ramona du Houx

January 3, 2010

Maine has been recognized as a leader in wind-energy development. There are currently 300 megawatts operating or under construction in Maine, with another 450 megawatts of wind in various stages of development throughout the state. Already, Maine is home to 95 percent of the operating onshore wind capacity in New England.

The overall plan is to educate students in Maine in wind technologies, from the development stages, with the composite technology expertise at UMaine, to engineering the turbines. The education received could, upon graduation, translate to jobs with companies in Maine that are part of the DeepCwind Consortium.

With 15,000 jobs projected in this field, Maine is gearing its educational programs up to meet the demand for skilled workers.

Dr. Habib Dagher, director of UMaine’s composite laboratory, is the author of that plan for Maine. He said that starting this fall new programs will be available for students.

“We’re putting together new educational programs at the university. Undergraduate and graduate students will work in the laboratory and get paid. It covers all aspects of the deep-sea wind development, whether it’s the oceanographic environmental monitoring piece or the development of composite turbines, said Dagher.

Some 300 UMaine graduate and undergraduate students could benefit from the new courses.

UMaine is part of the DeepCwind Consortium and works in this partnership with Northern Maine Community College and Maine Maritime Academy to further wind-energy educational goals.

“At UMaine we’re starting up an undergraduate academic program with a minor in renewable energy and the environment, in the fall,” said Dagher, “as well as a graduate degree program in renewable energy, the environment, and engineering.”

After a speech to students a month ago, in which Dagher invited those interested in the audience to apply to work on offshore wind development, more than 100 students submitted resumes within an hour.

“The students can’t wait to be involved,” said Dagher.

Dagher’s overall wind-development, economic growth plan for Maine envisions the state transitioning from fossil fuels to use electricity for all energy needs.

“We’re talking about heating homes with [electric] fuel pumps, driving electric cars, as well as lighting our homes,” said the professor. “With the offshore wind-energy potential in Maine being equivalent to 149 nuclear power plants, all our electric energy needs could be met, and we could export the rest.”