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Maine's Most Fascinating People: Dr. Habib Dagher

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ORONO (PART ONE OF TWO) -- It perhaps all started for 53-year-old Habib Dagher, as a teenager in turbulent Lebanon.

 A life of inventing began with an early passion for scientific discovery.

"When I was 12 or 13, I had a chemistry lab in my bedroom, and people would walk in and say 'what are all these tubes here?'" said Dagher, director of UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and the DEEPCwIND Consortium.

 

Today, he's the face of offshore wind power in Maine.

 

A Maine that sends $5 billion in fossil fuel costs out-of-state each year.

 

A Maine where families struggle to fill up their cars and heat their homes.

 

"We're paying more in energy costs than we pay in taxes," said Dagher. "But it's not just electricity; it's heating oil and it's gasoline. So we need to find better ways over the long run to reduce those costs."

 

And in a state that produces no oil, no coal, no natural gas -- Dagher's eyes are on the east.

 

"We identified offshore wind as the largest untapped resource that dwarfs everything else we've got, and that's the equivalent of 156 gigawatts," said Dagher. "That's 156 nuclear power plants worth of wind blowing off our coasts."

 

The strongest on the east coast.

 

And that's where massive floating turbines come in.

 

The goal: an offshore farm of neary 1,000 by 2030 -- cranking out 5 gigawatts of power.

 

"This will be the first offshore turbine off the U.S. coast, it will be the first floating turbine in the Americas, and certainly, from a materials viewpoint, it's the first floating turbine of its kind," said Dagher.

 

"These turbines that we're putting out there will be bigger than the Washington Monument each, they'll be six megawatt machines," said Dagher. "The wingspan on this unit is 423-feet, almost 1.5 football fields."

 

That's larger than the wingspan of the Boeing 747-400 jetliner.

 

But is offshore wind the cure for high energy costs?

 

Can Dagher and his team really achieve 10-cents-per-kilowatt hour by the year 2020?

 

The concern is real.

 

"Am I worried? Of course I'm always worried about it. I do toss and turn at night," said Dagher. "But when I think about the wonderful people working together and all the support we've had, I'm very confident we're going to win this one."

 

"There's very little risk for anybody -- all we're trying to do is figure out whether we can solve a problem," said Dagher. "If we do, we've got a big win. If we don't, we'll go solve another problem."

 

NOTE: Stay Tuned for Part II

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