Floating out at sea may seem like a bad thing, but it was worth $4 million to the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded UMaine with $4 million for the engineering, design and permitting phase of its floating turbine project. After reviewing more than 70 proposals, the university was one of seven projects selected.

More money could come from the DOE as the offshore wind energy team moves on to compete for one of three awards of up to $47 million over four years to help the university build and install a pair of 6-megawatt turbines off Monhegan Island by 2017. These turbines will create an operational wind farm called Aqua Ventus I. By 2020, UMaine plans to have a larger-scale commercial wind farm with 80 turbines in a 4-by-8-mile space 20 miles offshore, over the horizon. As private investors get involved, the total amount could reach over $93 million.

“The funding announced today is the key to the ignition of one of the most exciting projects ever undertaken by the state of Maine,” said Habib Dagher, director of the composites center and the leader of the offshore wind project, in a press conference on Wednesday.

“It’s a great day for the state of Maine, it’s a great day for the University of Maine and it’s a great day for everybody who worked on this proposal for the DOE,” Dagher added during the press conference.

After one year, the DOE will check back with the recipients to see how they’ve progressed with planning, designing and permitting of their projects. Depending on what it finds, the department will select three of the seven projects to receive the larger investments to move forward with construction and installation.

[Bangor Daily News]