Approximately 25 people attended a meeting on Monhegan Island Feb. 16 to learn more about plans for a deepwater wind energy testing site to be located about 2.5 miles off the island’s shore.

In mid-December, the state of Maine designated three locations to be demonstration sites for offshore wind technology.

A consortium of private companies as well as academia led by the University of Maine’s Habib Dagher will oversee the Monhegan site, which was allocated to the university for testing the products created by its laboratories under funding from the U.S. Department of Energy or other grantors. That site will also give the university opportunities for research in marine biology, geology and other related fields.

The DOE recently awarded the group an $8 million grant.

Elizabeth Viselli is associate program manager for the Advanced Structures and Composites Laboratory at the university. She said Feb. 17 that the presentation was offered as a way to update residents about the project and provide them with an opportunity to ask questions.

Citing national security and the potential for electricity generation offshore, a slide presentation touted the value of creating a national deepwater offshore wind research center in Maine. Active research and development of marine composite materials, the presence of companies such as Cianbro and Bath Iron Works, and the proximity to the industrial centers of the Northeast were also given as reasons for the increased focus on offshore wind in Maine.

Robert Lindyberg, the composites center’s assistant director for boat building and composites, described the various platform types that are expected to be used during the two-year study.

Viselli said DeepCWind, the group of academic and industry representatives working on the project, plans a very open process. The two-year grant from the DOE will enable the group to hold more public meetings as the project goes forward, she said.

She said that while there will not be a project office on Monehgan, there will be jobs for islanders, especially in the realms of data collection and maintenance of the deepwater platform and equipment.

“We’d like to get more people involved in the science of it,” she said.

“[U.S. Energy] Secretary Steven Chu said he wanted the University of Maine to lead the nation in deepwater offshore research,” Viselli said. “We hope to keep this going longer than two years.” The state has said the university test site could be in place for up to seven years.

The first job for the team, she said, will be environmental evaluation and locating the specific sites for the “sailboat-sized structures” that will be used for the study. Those sites will be determined based on bottom type, wind and wave criteria, she said.

That process, which she referred to as micrositing, is scheduled to take place in the spring.

“We hope to work with people on Monhegan who have worked with the Department of Marine Resources,” Viselli said. She said fishermen and other boat owners will be recruited to help with environmental monitoring, bathymetric surveys and sampling the ocean floor to ascertain anchoring needs for the platforms.

Bathymetrics is the study of the underwater depth of a lake or ocean floor.

Working with Neil Pettigrew, the developer of the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System, the surveys will use GoMOOS buoys and other equipment to learn about the migration cycles of birds and other wildlife, Viselli said.

An island liaison will also be hired to do administrative work and help with logistical matters. Viselli said boats will be hired to take scientists to the site from time to time.

The university’s goal is to have the first demonstration turbine operating in the water in 2011.

The Maine State Planning Office, Maine Department of Conservation and Gov. John Baldacci announced Dec. 15 that the sites include the waters off Monhegan, Boon and Damariscove islands. The decision followed fours months of analysis and use of a search process that reviewed the coastal geography. The process also included extensive meetings with stakeholders, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.

Deepwater turbines are those set on floating platforms in more than 200 feet of water offshore, where high winds have the potential to produce a greater amount of energy than at inshore and land-based sites. Test areas were chosen based on average wind speed, ocean depth and the obstruction-free location within state-controlled waters.

Lindyberg said wave energy could also be studied from the Monhegan site, but no formal proposals have been made for wave research.