Maine Wind Power “Ask the Expert” Q&A

Questions were submitted to Maine Wind Power “Ask the Expert” October 5-12, 2011; answers provided by University of Maine wind energy experts Josh Plourde and Elizabeth Viselli.

Josh Plourde is the DeepCwind Consortium’s Education and Outreach Team Creative Assistant. Josh works with teachers, students, sponsors, and DeepCwind team members to ensure that Windstorm Challenge 2012 is a great experience for Maine’s middle and high school students!

Elizabeth Viselli, MBA, is the Associate Program Manager for the DeepCwind Consortium and leads its award-winning Education and Outreach team.

Q: What impact does wind energy have on the environment?

A: For a quick overview of environmental and human risks related to wind energy development, see the Chapter 5 Summary Slides of the Department of Energy’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report [PDF].

Q: Is there information that people or communities surround wind turbines should know?

A: In Maine, 80% of families use oil to heat their homes, making Maine the most vulnerable state to rises in crude oil prices. However, while Maine is incredibly reliant on fossil fuels, we are also have an abundance of natural renewable energy resources, particularly wind energy.

With the development of this natural, clean energy source also comes the development of Maine’s economy. If the supply chain in the state is maximized, there is a potential to create 7,000 to 15,000 jobs per year.

People or communities living near land-based wind turbines should attend a tour of their local wind farm. Most companies who run wind farms are often very open to tours and answering questions local communities may have.

Q: What are the benefits of offshore wind?

A: The US Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has used extensive data collection and GIS mapping to create wind resource maps for the United States.

This map shows that the best wind resource exists offshore, even better than the wind resource in Great Plain regions of the US. More specifically, Class 6 (Outstanding) and Class 7 (Superb) wind speeds exist off the coast of Maine.

Floating deepwater wind farms placed ten or more nautical miles (nmi) offshore can play a critical role in reaching the Department of Energy’s 20% wind power goal by 2030. Deepwater offshore wind is the dominant U.S. ocean energy resource, surpassing tidal and nearshore wind turbines, representing a potential of nearly 3,100 terawatt-hours/year, compared to a U.S. electricity use of nearly 3,500 terawatt-hours/year.

It also:

  1. Overcomes view shed issues that have delayed or prevented some nearshore projects.
  2. Places energy generation closer to major U.S. population centers.
  3. Allows access to a more powerful Class 6 and 7 wind resource.
  4. Reduces over time wind energy costs by reducing transmission costs from remote land sites and by simplifying deployment and maintenance logistics.

Q: How is wind energy important to Maine? What might this mean in the future?

A: Maine plans to construct a 5 GW, $20 billion network of floating offshore wind farms to contribute to the northeast U.S. renewable energy needs. Maine has the deepest waters near its shores, approximately 200 ft deep at 3 nautical miles, and 89% of Maine’s 149 gigawatt offshore wind resource is in deep waters. The state also offers extensive maritime industry infrastructure and proximity to one of the largest energy markets in the country. Maine is an ideal state to lead deepwater offshore wind development.

Apart from generating clean electricity, this enormous energy resource would give Maine the opportunity to export electricity that isn’t used within the state–a very valuable economic resource for the state!

Q: What do we use wind energy for?

A: Wind energy is mainly used to generate electricity.

Wind is simply air in motion. It is caused by the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface by the sun. Because the Earth’s surface is made of very different types of land and water, it absorbs the sun’s heat at different rates. One example of this uneven heating can be found in the daily wind cycle. During the day, the air above the land heats up more quickly than the air over water. The warm air over the land expands and rises, and the heavier, cooler air rushes in to take its place, creating wind. At night, the winds are reversed because the air cools more rapidly over land than over water. In the same way, the atmospheric winds that circle the earth are created because the land near the Earth’s equator is heated more by the sun than the land near the North and South Poles. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Learn more about wind energy and other renewable energy sources.

Q: What opportunities are available for students to learn more about wind power?

A: Students can participate in Windstorm Challenge. Windstorm Challenge, a middle school and high school competition, gives students an opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world problems. This experience is hands-on in STEM, business, and new media disciplines and helps students make some difficult decisions as they move on to selecting their future careers.

Essentially, teams build a scale model deepwater offshore floating wind turbine platform–very similar to the work being done by DeepCwind Consortium research engineers. The team that builds the most effective and highest quality floating wind turbine platform wins the Windstorm Challenge. Teams also give a sales pitch to a panel of expert judges. Winning team members who attend the University of Maine receive a paid internship at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center—a rare opportunity for first-year students to be a part of one of the leading research institutions in the United States. For more information about Windstorm Challenge, please contact Joshua Plourde ( while the Windstorm Challenge website is in the final development stages., our website, is a great resource for students or teachers to learn more about the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation-sponsored research going on at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. DeepCwind also offers summertime internships to high school and undergraduate students.

The University of Maine now offers several minors in Renewable Energy. Learn more about these degree programs.

Students and teachers (whether individuals or classrooms) can request a tour of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center and Offshore Wind Laboratory at the University of Maine.

AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center is a state-of-the-art one-stop-shop for integrated composite materials and structural component development. Located at the University of Maine, it offers in-house capabilities for developing a composite product or structure from the conceptual stage through research, manufacturing of prototypes, comprehensive testing and evaluation, code approval and commercialization.

The Offshore Wind Laboratory expands Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s current facility to 87,000 square feet and enables the design, manufacture, and testing of structural hybrid composite and nano-composite components for wind structures up to 70 m, such as blades, towers, and spars—all under one roof. The expansion is due to open Fall 2011.