U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Grandholm

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Grandholm greets people at an event in Portsmouth to talk about clean energy projects.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Grandholm was among a half-dozen clean energy advocates in Portsmouth promoting wind turbines as a future source of clean energy jobs.

“Our hair is on fire,” Grandholm said Friday as she described the potential market opportunity for clean energy, which would include offshore wind turbines. “Why not make New Hampshire the tip of the spear?”

She spoke on a blustery September afternoon under clear blue skies, an excavator sitting on the grounds of the Port Authority along Market Street.

The 36,000 square miles of the Gulf of Maine, an expanse stretching from Cape Cod to Cape Sable Island at the southern end of Nova Scotia, is the area energy planners have targeted for possible wind energy development.

President Joseph Biden has set a national goal of 100% clean energy by 2035.

Congressman Chris Pappas, D-NH, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, used the moment to underscore the need for workforce development and infrastructure.

“What we do in the next few years will determine the lives and livelihoods of generations of people,” Pappas said, “and we have to act with the urgency and foresight our communities and these future generations deserves.”

The roundtable participants agreed that clean energy will require more public investment in ports, training centers, and a clean energy grid.

Among those at Friday’s roundtable were IBEW labor union representative Joe Casey, Diane Foster, director of Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, Sean Clancy a vice president of business engagement with Great Bay Community College, and Sam Evans-Brown, the executive director of Clean Energy NH.

Foster spoke of the need to engage and educate businesses, homeowners and the community about the potential the ocean has for generating clean energy.

Listening intently in the small audience was Michael Behrmann, formerly the offshore industry director for the state office of Business and Economic Affairs, and Geno Marconi, Port Authority of New Hampshire director.

Grandholm, Pappas and Hassan spoke of the massive infrastructure bill now being negotiated between the House and the Senate, which in its final form they say will support wind farm development.

Sam Evans-Brown of Clean Energy NH cautioned that ports need “a lot of investment and a lot of space” in order to make New Hampshire a player in offshore wind industry, noting “you have to spend money to make money.”

“When it comes to the capacity of a state like New Hampshire to find the political will to spend the money on a technology that they haven’t seen yet, it can be difficult, Evans-Brown said.

“That’s where the federal government can come in and prime the pump,” he said.