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Supporters, critics of offshore wind on hand for Ken Salazar’s visit

ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar says he hopes his office can help state officials expedite the process in developing offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Maine.

The secretary took a tour of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center where researchers have been working on a floating test turbine to launch off of Monhegan Island next summer. They have long been working in partnership with state officials and the leaders of several businesses in Maine towards developing offshore wind projects off of Maine’s coast. Their hope is to eventually develop a 25-megawatt wind farm somewhere in the gulf of Maine, which supporters say could lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs.

“Obviously this lab when it comes to offshore wind is really a lab that has caught the inspiration and the imagination of the entire country and the world,” Salazar said in a press conference at the center alongside Sen. Susan Collins.

Currently state officials are working to identify coastal areas of Maine that are most suitable to develop offshore wind. All potential projects would be in federal waters and have to be permitted by the Department of Interior.

Secretary Salazar says he is aiming to have his office work with Gov. Paul LePage’s and state officials to expedite the process.

Critics off offshore wind include Ron Huber of “Penobscot Bay Watch.” They are worried that creating offshore wind farms could have a negative effect on Maine sea life and the state’s fishing industry. Members of the group say they want to see any turbines put up at least 20 miles from shore.

Salazar says that he is confident that the current studies being undertaken will point eventual wind projects in the right direction.

“If there are commercial fishery sensitivities or military conflicts…which are in many other states along the Atlantic…then we say ‘Those are not the areas where we are going to build’,” he said.

“We just want to sort of be a truth control,” remarked Huber, who stood in protest outside of the composites center before Salazar’s arrival, “keep reminding the powers that be that they can do it right and not just a quick political thing.”

Supporters of offshore wind also pointed to public comment sessions that they say will be held for critics to address their concerns when it comes time for individual projects to be discussed.