According to a new report from the American Jobs Project, Maine’s offshore wind industry, which is supported largely by the state’s composites sector, presents a significant economic opportunity for job growth, having the potential to support an annual average of 2,144 jobs through 2030.
The reports states that the offshore wind industry could help address Maine’s need for good-paying jobs while offering a diverse array of employment opportunities that cater to different education and experience levels. On a commercial scale, offshore wind is capable of creating new jobs in sectors such as construction, operations, products and services.
“Given local development of floating foundation technology, interest from cooperative industry associations, a growing network of composites manufacturers, and immense offshore energy resource potential, Maine is well positioned to benefit from the rising demand for offshore wind technology,” the report says.
That growing network includes the University of Maine, which has been a leader in composites research and development for years. The university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the Maine Composites Alliance are working to establish the state as a pioneer in deep water offshore wind technology, most notably in wind turbine foundations.
Demand for floating offshore technology is growing, with a Northern California county recently establishing its own consortium aimed at furthering offshore wind development. With greater industry engagement, Maine could harness its natural resource potential by leveraging momentum from the University of Maine’s Aqua Ventus project and mobilizing in-state R&D to bring other innovative ideas from labs and universities into the market.
“By 2020, wind energy will comprise nearly 60% of the market for advanced composites,” the report says. “The growth of Maine’s offshore wind industry will rely on innovations in composites such as carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes, and graphene. These coatings help increase durability, protecting turbines from corrosion and wear.”
With additional resources, Maine’s workforce training programs could prioritize technical skills such as composites and advanced materials manufacturing, machining, hydraulics, rigging and material handling, data analysis, and understanding of electromechanical systems. The report suggests the Maine Legislature could create an offshore wind workforce development grant program to facilitate workforce training for the offshore wind industry. This fund could allow workforce training centers to provide customized training from qualified instructors, using modern equipment in state-of-the-art classroom and lab facilities. To mobilize interest from developers, the fund could emphasize technical skills that are required at each stage of offshore wind deployment and are most relevant to Maine’s economy, such as manufacturing and construction.