A BUSY WEEKEND, ENDING WITH A LECTURE BY HABIB DAGHER AT UMA

A very busy weekend, that started with a bang. On Friday evening, our friends Debbie and Dennis Maddi joined Clif and me for soup and homemade bread. I decided to be bold and try to reproduce the soup I had made out of odds and ends in mid-December. (Here is the post where I describe what I did.) I am such a seat-of-the-pants cook that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. But, the soup was so good that it was worth a try. Readers, I succeeded, and the soup—made with beans, sausage, ground beef, and various spices—came out just as well as it did when I first concocted it. Another reminder of how I really need to transcribe and then gather my recipes in a book.

With the soup and bread, I served a simple winter salad of romaine lettuce, toasted walnuts, crumbled feta, and mandarin oranges, dressed with a homemade vinaigrette. Debbie thought the salad was so pretty that she urged me to take a picture of it, which I did.

Debbie and Dennis are interested in many of the same things that we are—politics, books, movies, and the environment—so the conversation hummed right along during the evening. One topic of discussion was the Senior College at the University of Maine at Augusta. The Senior College offers noncredited courses for, well, people over 50. There are Senior Colleges at the various universities throughout the state, and they add so much to the intellectual life of our communities. Maine has an aging population, the highest in the country, I believe. I am certainly in that category, and as there are so many of us in Maine, we had better darned well be useful and keep our wits sharp. Senior Colleges do much to facilitate this.

Debbie and Dennis are actively involved with the Senior College at the University of Maine at Augusta. They take courses, and they also volunteer to help with a nifty lecture series called Forum on the Future. As it turned out, on Sunday there was to be a lecture given by Habib Dagher, a professor of Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Maine at Orono. Even before we had invited Debbie and Dennis over for supper, Clif and I had made plans to go this lecture.

The nuts-and-bolts title of Professor Dagher’s talk was Energy, Economic Growth, and Jobs, but the lecture was anything but pedestrian. Slim, dark, and animated, Professor Dagher’s enthusiasm for his subject—offshore wind energy in Maine—made the lecture engaging as well as informative.

In brief: Right now, between electricity, fuel for the car, and heat for the house, Mainers spend about $10,000 a year on energy costs. (In Maine, the average family income in Maine is $45,00 to $50,000.) Twenty percent of our income goes to gasoline and oil, and as Professor Dagher warned, this will only go up as time goes by. So, he suggested , why not reduce uncertainty, and perhaps costs, with multiple sources of energy produced in Maine? Professor Dagher listed opportunities for Maine that included wood, tidal, and hydro, but his passion is offshore wind power, and off the Maine coast, the wind blows hard enough and consistently enough to produce a lot of power.

How much power? Professor Dagher’s estimate is that when you take into account that even off the coast the wind doesn’t blow all the time, there is still enough wind to produce 60 gigawatts of energy. Now, if you’re like me, you have no idea how much energy this really is. But Professor Dagher made it easy to visualize: One nuclear power plant produces 1 gigawatt of energy, which means we have the equivalent of 60 nuclear power plants blowing in the wind over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Maine.

In Maine, we have the wind in our backyard. With it, we could heat our homes and power our cars. According to Professor Dagher, as many as 15,000 jobs could be created to support the industry.

Now, let’s hope the powers that be support offshore wind power.