Mainebiz Hosted Second Annual Conference on Maine Energy & How to Build an Economy Around the Energy Industry.

Dr. Habib Daghler

Dr. Habib Daghler

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 304)

Even though energy costs are relatively low today, Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine-Orono, said that will change fairly soon.  Ten years from now, the price of gas will be $8. per gallon, Dagher said.  And by 2020, the price of gas is expected to be at $10. a gallon.  Dagher, was the keynote speaker at the Mainebiz conference yesterday afternoon at the Wyndham Hotel in South Portland.

Dagher made his case as to why Maine can be a leader in the wind industry business before several hundred attendees at the l/2 day conference.  Maine has the necessary deepwater ocean resources as well as plenty of wind within a 50 mile radius of the coastline to be an important producer of wind energy.  Wind power alone can’t power the state.  He cited that 21% of Denmark’s power comes from wind power.  When it doesn’t have enough to meet its needs, Denmark borrows the rest from Norway. Norway serves as a wind bank for Denmark.  Maine would have to develop the same sort of relationship with another wind power source.

Dagher was part of the delegation who accompanied Governor Baldacci to Norway, Spain and Germany on a fact finding mission last month.  In Norway,  the coast is similar to Maine’s.  Thus, both countries have lots of offshore deepwater in which to operate wind turbines.  The two men signed an agreement with a Norwegian firm in which these experts will come to Maine in mid-November to assess our capabilities based on their vast expertise.  The Norwegian company, StatoilHydro has built and deployed the world’s first deepwater wind turbine.  It’s about six miles off the coast of Norway.  The results of the Norwegian assessment will be made public at University of Maine, O. and perhaps somewhere here in southern Maine as well.  (Here are some interesting facts for you:  90% of Maine’s offshore wind is in deepwater, deepwater is more than 100 ft. deep and 3 miles off Maine’s coast, the water is 300 ft. deep.)

A panel of experts from the wind power, banking, education and financial sectors discussed a myriad of issues following the keynote speech.  It was stated that Maine has one of the best political environments in which to change our energy sources.  Kurt Adams of FirstWind said that the permitting process needs to be improved.  Dana Doran of Kennebec Valley Comunity College called for the unwaivering support of education and training for skilled workers to find jobs in the energy field.  Carpenters are needed but their skills needed to be augmented so they can be plumbers, electricians and welders.  In other words, they need to be multi-skilled.  Asking the panel how to encourage students not to leave Maine, Adams responded, “Don’t go to college in a warm climate!  Seriously, come back here.  There are lots of opportunities, but you have to work hard to find them – but it’s here.”

During the reception afterwards, Patricia Laube, who teaches on-line in the School of Technology at Easern Illilnois University said that Europe is about 10 years ahead of the U.S. because they “don’t have the oil and coal that we have.  They have few natural resources like the US.  So, they look at it all very differently.  Energy was so cheap here for so long.  In the 1970s we produced 2/3 of our oil and imported 1/3 of it.  Now that’s all reversed.  We produce l/3 or our oil and import 2/3 of it.  For all these years, the oil companies were strong and had lobbyists who worked on behalf of their interests.  So, it was hard for renewables to get their feet in the door,” she said.

“This is the future,” said David Laube, her husband.  He’s with GE.