Sens. Collins, King, state leaders welcome DOE assistant secretary to UMaine Composites Center

Orono, Maine — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King joined officials from the Maine governor’s office July 26 to in welcoming Daniel Simmons, Department of Energy (DOE) assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, to the University of Maine.

Simmons toured the 100,000-square-foot Advanced Structures and Composites Center and its innovations under development, including next-generation floating wind turbines, 3D printed bio-derived recyclable construction materials and lightweight composite bridge technologies.

On the tour was the largest 3D printed object in the world, part of a composite materials mold for a 75-foot bridge that will be built in Hampden, Maine using a technology developed at the UMaine Composites Center and licensed to Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, a Maine-based spinoff company. Later this year, the center will install the world’s largest 3D printer to support a partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Bio-based resins and nanocellulose fibers will be used to print large structures, such as boat and wind turbine blade molds.

Leaders of Maine’s boatbuilding industry have partnered with the center to reduce manufacturing time and costs using 3D print recyclable boat molds. The pioneering research has received funding from the Maine Technology Institute.

Simmons and his leadership team also observed UMaine’s patented VolturnUS floating concrete hull technology being exposed to simulated 50-year and 500-year extreme storms at the Alfond W2 wind-wave basin. The Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Lab can create wind storms over a wave basin to accurately model extreme ocean storms. UMaine’s VolturnUS floating wind turbine moves less than 10 degrees off vertical in a simulated 500-year storm with 70-foot waves and 140-mile-per-hour winds.

There is an international race to design and deploy floating wind turbines, and UMaine’s VolturnUS design has won $40 million from the DOE to build the 12-megawatt Aqua Ventus I demonstration project. The floating concrete hulls will be built onshore in Maine and towed 14 miles offshore and moored to the seabed.

The ability to produce the hulls locally reduces costs and creates jobs. Made from concrete, UMaine’s VolturnUS hull has now 28 U.S. and international patents, and has received design approval from the American Bureau of Shipping. According to estimates by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the VolturnUS concrete hull has the potential to reduce the cost of floating offshore wind to below 8 cents per kilowatt for large commercial-scale farms.

The Maine demonstration project serves as a stepping-stone to validate the performance of the hull and its environmental impact, before larger farms can be built in the United States. Floating farms could be placed more than 20 miles offshore so that they are not visible from land, and can be located in areas where they minimize the effect on fishing and other ocean uses.

Offshore wind is Maine’s largest untapped renewable resource with 156 gigawatts of wind capacity within 50 miles offshore. Harnessing 3 percent of the Gulf of Maine’s offshore wind potential could allow for the transition to electric heating and electric cars.The vast majority of this resource is over deep water, too deep for traditional fixed-foundation wind turbine platforms. Major fixed-bottom offshore wind projects have been awarded or are planned throughout the Northeast, such as in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Floating technologies like the one developed by UMaine can harness nearly 60 percent of the U.S. offshore wind resource within 50 miles of shore.

Last month, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed several important clean energy bills to help address climate change and create jobs. These bills include legislation to approve the contract for Maine Aqua Ventus, boost solar incentives, reduce Maine greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050, and increase Maine’s renewable portfolio standard from 40 percent today to 80 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.

In addition, the governor announced that Maine will participate in a federally led Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Regional Task Force on offshore wind with New Hampshire and Massachusetts. This summer, she will direct the creation of the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative, a state-based program to identify opportunities for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine and determine how Maine can best position itself to benefit from future offshore wind projects, including opportunities for job creation, supply chain and port development, and offshore wind’s impact on Maine’s energy future. The initiative also will be charged with promoting compatibility between potential future uses and existing uses in the Gulf of Maine to inform offshore wind siting considerations, and minimize any effect on Maine’s commercial fishing and maritime industries.

Federal and state representatives have expressed their commitment to ensure the success of the Aqua Ventus I project, which will help the U.S. regain a leadership role in floating offshore wind technology.

“My first official visit as a new senator in 1997 was to Dr. Dagher’s wood composite lab, and I was so impressed by the innovative work of Dr. Dagher and his team that I made a commitment to do all I could to support this vital research,” says Sen. Susan Collins. “The UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center has become a world leader in the development of cost-effective, high-performance hybrid composite materials with applications that range from deepwater offshore wind energy to systems that protect our troops on the battlefield. I was delighted to join Secretary Simmons today to strengthen the federal-state partnership in moving the Aqua Ventus I project forward, which will help build a new clean energy economy, with thriving industries and jobs of the future here in Maine.”

“Maine is a global leader in clean energy and other innovative technologies thanks in a large part to the work that’s being done here at the University of Maine,” says Sen. Angus King. “Together with partners like the United States Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Lab, UMaine’s faculty and students are creating new tools that will boost clean energy production, maximize our state’s natural resources, and help create a better world for our children and grandchildren. It was a pleasure to be here today to welcome Assistant Secretary Simmons to witness firsthand what we already know: Maine is leading the nation toward a cleaner future.”

“Offshore wind represents a significant opportunity for Maine,” says Gov. Janet Mills. “The development of innovative technologies like Aqua Ventus will help our state embrace home-grown clean energy, create jobs of the future that strengthen our economy, and tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Through the University of Maine’s outstanding efforts, our state is on the vanguard of floating offshore wind development, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with our federal partners to support these important advancements.”

“Maine’s motto is ‘Dirigo’ for a reason. We’ve always led boldly and this landmark offshore wind project is no exception. I’m grateful that the Department of Energy has entrusted the University of Maine to steward this first-of-its-kind renewable energy project in the Gulf of Maine,” says U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. “Mainers feel the climate crisis every day — from their health to their paychecks. We know the time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is long past due.”

“UMaine’s composites lab is producing some of the most exciting sustainable innovation work being done by universities and young people anywhere in the country,” says U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. “That’s why it’s so important to see Secretary Simmons pay the lab a visit and see firsthand the impressive accomplishments of these students and faculty, particularly in renewable energy and composite technologies. Securing funding for sustainability programs like those at UMaine’s composites lab will help grow Maine’s green energy economy and create jobs, while preparing our state for the future.”

“The Department of Energy is supportive of offshore wind development and particularly the first floating demonstration project in the Gulf of Maine. The offshore wind industry will create large numbers of U.S. manufacturing jobs. We are pleased to provide continued support from the U.S. Department of Energy to bring this groundbreaking project forward to completion,” says Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons, “What we have seen today reconfirms that UMaine is at the forefront of floating offshore wind technology, and Aqua Ventus I provides a crucial pathway for the United States to lead in the new energy revolution.”

“We are honored to welcome Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons and his team, along with U.S. Senators Collins and King, representatives of Governor Mills, and our industry leaders,” says Habib Dagher, executive director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. “We are energized and humbled by the tremendous support expressed by our federal, state and local industry partners, and are committed more than ever to the success of New England Aqua Ventus I and what this crucial project means for U.S. technological leadership and Maine’s economy and clean energy future.”