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December 5, 2008 Jay Finegan, 287-1445
Rep. Stacey Fitts Named to Ocean Energy Task Force

Panel Will Explore Potential of Wind Energy Off Maine Coast

AUGUSTA – State Representative Stacey Fitts has been named to Maine’s new Ocean Energy Task Force, a 21-member panel established last month by Governor John Baldacci. The task force will examine the potential for such ocean-based energy resources as wind, tidal power and wave action. It also will update information regarding off-shore oil and gas resources.

Rep. Fitts (R-Pittsfield), who has served two terms on the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee, joins a distinguished group of Mainers on the panel. They include former governor Angus King; University of Maine professor of structural engineering Habib Dagher; attorney David Flanagan, former president of Central Maine Power; and venture capitalist Tim Agnew, of Masthead Venture Partners. Other members include top officials from relevant state agencies, including environmental protection, marine resources, economic development and the office of energy independence.

According to the governor’s executive order, the task force will provide interim findings by April 1, 2009, with the final recommendations due by October 31, 2009. “The recent decline in heating oil and gasoline prices does not change the necessity to free Maine from the unpredictable, costly and dangerous dependency on foreign oil,” the executive order reads. “Furthermore, developing clean, renewable sources of energy off Maine’s coast will grow ‘green’ jobs and businesses within our state and help us address global warming. Maine is blessed with strong wind and tidal resources off-shore that, if properly harnessed, can complement wind and other renewable energy resources on-shore.”

On December 4, Professor Dagher of UMaine Orono explained the urgency of Maine’s situation to a meeting that included most members of the new 124th Legislature. He noted that energy costs required 5 percent of an average family’s income in 1998 for electricity, heating and transportation. This year, he said, the same energy will take 20-25 percent of that income. By 2018, he predicted, energy expenses will grow to about 50 percent of Maine’s average household income.

The solution to such ruinous costs, Dr. Dagher suggested, relies on increased use of electricity for heating and transportation. To generate that much additional power, he said, would require two nuclear power plants or their ocean-energy equivalents in the form of 1,000 wind turbines, each producing 5 megawatts of power, placed off the coast. The Gulf of Maine enjoys some of the strongest winds on earth during the winter. Maine’s coastal waters extend out three miles.

“In reducing our addiction to fossil fuels and petroleum-based energy sources, wind is definitely going to play a big part,” said Rep. Fitts. “Our off-shore wind resources are abundant and in some cases easier to harvest than some of the wind on-shore. The concept of working toward being a leader in the deep-water off-shore industry is intriguing and has the potential to unlock great economic potential. The deep-water wind industry is in its infancy and will need innovation and significant research and development to successfully exploit.

“Off-shore resources are only a part of any energy situation that Maine should consider,” Rep. Fitts added. “Nuclear alternatives still should be discussed. If we started today, we could potentially have steel in the ground in 15 years, if not sooner. But that work would fall to a different task force to consider.”