On Wednesday, Feb. 6, Dr. Habib Dagher gave a talk entitled, “Maine’s opportunity to lead on clean energy jobs and combating climate change,” which explored where Maine has been moving in its approach to energy.
Dagher is a professor of structural and civil engineering at the University of Maine and the founding director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. His talk included a mixture of speculation and discussion of what has already been done on the renewable energy front.
Under Dagher’s leadership, the Advanced Structures and Composites Center launched a prototype of the VolturnUS in 2013, the first grid-connected offshore wind turbine in the Americas, according to the Advanced Structures and Composites Center website.
The goal of this project, the Aqua Ventus, is to build and make functioning a full-size floating wind turbine, ultimately preparing the state for any future energy crisis and keeping the money made from energy in Maine.
“It’s going to take all of us working together to make it happen,” Dagher said.
According to the U.S. Energy Administration, in 2017 roughly three-quarters of Maine’s net energy generation came from renewable sources, with one-third coming from hydroelectric dams and one-fifth from wind turbines.
“Eleven years ago a floating wind turbine was a thing of science fiction and now we are in an international race to see who will be the first to get a floating offshore wind turbine,” Dagher said.
The Aqua Ventus seeks to alleviate some of the high costs of energy for Maine families as well as replace fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy.
Maine is the state with the most wind capacity on the East Coast, according to Dagher. As the offshore wind begins to take off all over the United States, Maine has the potential to lead in floating technology as most offshore projects have been land based.
“Energy rules the world, where will Maine fit in?” Dagher asked.
The VolunturnUS project is now in its last phase during which researchers will attempt to build the full-size floating offshore wind turbine.
However, to truly expand this energy economy, Dagher said, the state needs to attract investment, but this is where Maine has been slow to gain momentum. First, Aqua Ventus needs to be completed, which is predicted to happen by early 2021. Then the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management needs to set up a task force to organize and ensure farms do not disturb the environment the device is put in before asking for more.
To move forward with this and a role UMaine can play, Dagher suggested, is to incorporate the new energy economy as a part of the University of Maine System research and development plan. This is to help solve the need for local solutions specific to the state of Maine. The overarching question he hopes to address is how to transition Maine to a net zero carbon system.