A new consortium organizes Maine’s wind power industry
By Ramona du Houx
July 3, 2009
The opportunity to network, for agencies, businesses, and representatives from governments, was huge, and Maine benefited. Spreading the awareness of the expertise and businesses that are established in Maine in this field is paramount for the industry to grow.
“Establishing the state as a substantial player in the offshore wind industry is one of the objectives of our new group, The Maine Wind Industry Initiative,” said Paul Williamson, project manager and member of the Maine Composites Alliance. “We will also link the resources from the Maine businesses to in-state and national opportunities.”
The conference was the official debut of the consortium.
“Maine has very realistic potential for offshore wind that will affect the state in a big way. Currently, with our land-based wind farms, we are producing the most wind power in New England. And others are going up this summer. Within that development, we have a lot of diverse Maine companies working,” said Williamson. “The Maine Wind Industry Initiative is an attempt to bring those companies together to network, provide solutions for each other, and provide a one-stop shop for solutions — for the world marketplace.”
The EnergyOcean Conference made it abundantly clear that many diverse companies and organizations are involved in wind power development.
“MWII is the first organization in America to organize the full industry, from the supply chain to government agencies. Sharing our knowledge will give us strength, as we move forward together,” said Williamson. “Wind power development doesn’t deal with a single industry. There are steel workers, engineers, precision manufactures, boat builders, construction crews, composite technologies, and marine technologies. MWII brings these partners under one roof, so that they can network and solve problems working together. We want to become a unified holistic source of expertise.”
As challenges arise MWII hopes to address them head on. Composites have been used for decades in boat building. Today’s composite materials are stronger and safer than ever before. The Navy builds some vessels using composites, contracting specialized boat builders in Maine.
“Building windmills is a similar technology, and uses the same materials, but there is an additional knowledge that needs to be had. We are bringing in that knowledge from experts to help local companies, so they can enter into that marketplace,” said Williamson. “We are putting together a series of seminars, so we all can become aware of the shift from boat building to blade manufacturing. We need to make sure our companies leapfrog from where we are currently to the highest quality, lowest cost products.”
MWII has a blueprint to grow from, combining the organizational structures and networks set up by the work accomplished by the NorthStar Alliance and the Maine Composites Alliance (MCA) The NorthStar Alliance brought together Maine’s boat builders and the various businesses, government agencies, and educational institutions that support them. Working together they market, share ideas, and help train new workers in the industry. MCA includes different businesses involved in composites, and research and development institutions, which are associated with composites. MCA has also been working with the Maine Port Authority and the AEWC composites center at UMaine.
“These two organizations have given us a structure to work from,” said Williamson. “There are hidden resources here in Maine that people generally don’t equate with the industry. Delorme maps, most people know, are a Maine company. I have their Maine guide in the back or my car. They just became members, because they have been working all across America, mapping out windmill locations, providing geotechnical data for wind-power development. Every day our membership is growing, and we really haven’t done anything to promote it. This conference has been a great boost.”
Maine’s wind potential was identified in 2007. Since then a grass roots uprising has occurred amongst the members of MWII. From the University of Maine developing programs to advance research and development in the field, to companies reinventing themselves to become part of the growth, all with as much assistance as the State can give. The industry is evolving at a rapid pace.
“We are a small state with a huge potential to produce wind power. Right now we don’t have a large enough presence at the table within the country in the national conversation. The governor’s efforts in bringing the Canadian premiers and Northeastern governors together to work collaboratively on energy issues have strengthened our position. His work on the transmission corridors is a critical step. We need transmission corridors for the industry to grow. Without them we can’t transmit the electricity to the market users,” said Williamson. “We hope MWII will grow the state’s presence nationally and internationally. We have reserved a booth at the 2010 EnergyOcean Conference and will be exhibiting our expertise at the Maine Wind Industry Pavilion. At that time, our plan is to have many Maine companies represented, so we will be recognized more.”
Williamson continued to say that the governor’s legislation that gave the green light for testing sites to be identified in the Gulf of Maine and the quick access for approval for research and development will attract a lot of attention from the world marketplace.
“They will know Maine can be a place where they can come to develop their ideas and put them in place,” said Williamson. “UMaine’s composite center will be breaking ground for a wind blade testing facility. There are other testing centers in the nation. UMaine’s center will be unique, because it will have the capability to conduct testing on wind blades and prototype them there, using the R&D capabilities at the center. All of these steps are positioning Maine to become a big player in the windmill marketplace. They will put Maine on the map.”
For more information about MWII, please visit: http://www.mainewindindustry.com.