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by Jonathan Thomas
Peninsula Power’s application for the loan of a wind test tower, to be located on Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick, has been approved. Paul Trowbridge announced the decision at the group’s November 19 meeting. The grant for a wind turbine site survey is from the University of Maine and Efficiency Maine, a program of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. (See November 19 issue of The Weekly Packet.) The university will install the tower and process the data that is collected.
Sedgwick selectmen met briefly with Trowbridge on November 24, but said they needed more time to review the recently received grant materials before they would be ready to vote on whether to accept it. (At their October 29 meeting the selectmen had given approval for the grant application to be submitted, but had not actually approved the grant, as had been previously reported.)
The November 19 meeting of Peninsula Power was the latest in a series arranged by Sedgwick resident Trowbridge and others. The meetings began last March with a talk in the Blue Hill Town Hall by Harvard economics professor George Baker on the Vinalhaven wind power project, which has recently become operational. Baker told the story of how he and others in the Vinalhaven/North Haven (Fox Islands) community accomplished their goal of bringing wind turbines to the area. That meeting led to the formation of a local “grassroots” group calling itself Peninsula Power Initiative that has continued to meet twice monthly since then.
Trowbridge acknowledged in a recent interview that being a grassroots group without a formal identity is a problem that they are working to solve. Baker and other wind power proponents on Vinalhaven and North Haven were able to work through an existing co-op, Fox Island Electric Company, which already supplied electricity to the two islands.
“That’s one of the biggest challenges we have, the ‘who are we?’,” said Trowbridge. “We do not have a delimited border that says ‘this is us.’ We just named four towns [Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville and Sedgwick] that we’d like to serve. It may end up that we don’t serve those four towns, all of them. Or we may serve more than those four towns. It’s not in concrete yet.”
In the meantime, Peninsula Power has a relationship with the Maine Coast Community Wind Program of the Island Institute in Rockland. (See October 29 issue of The Weekly Packet.) As an established nonprofit organization, the Island Institute is able to receive donations and make disbursements on behalf of Peninsula Power.
Suzanne Pude, director of the Island Institute’s community wind program, has developed a Phase 1 budget for Peninsula Power based on feasibility studies done elsewhere. The $65,000 budget includes categories for organizational analysis, economic and financial analysis, and environmental issues. Ownership of the facilities and rate-setting authority would also be addressed.
Peninsula Power has already been awarded a $3,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation, which was paid to the Town of Brooksville and is to be forwarded to the Island Institute and applied to the Phase 1 study.
The November 19 meeting was one of 10 twice-monthly meetings of the group of self-appointed individuals on a schedule sent to those on the group’s e-mail list in July. The nine people present at the meeting agreed on the following leadership positions for Peninsula Power: chairman/director, Paul Trowbridge; information technology, John Miller; Mia Strong, treasurer; Colin Terelia, Web consultant. Some of these, such as Trowbridge, had already been acting in their positions. Richard Avery will be moderator for an upcoming live video presentation with former governor Angus King (see below).
Other grant revenue
As reported in the November 19 issue, Peninsula Power had a major role in preparing Energy Efficiency Block Grant “template” applications recently submitted by the towns of Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, and Sedgwick.
These four template applications name Peninsula Power as the beneficiary of $5,000 in grant funds from each of these four towns, potentially totaling $20,000 if the template grants of $10,000 to all four towns are awarded ($5,000 of each grant would remain with the town).
Those funds would be forwarded by the towns to the Island Institute’s Community Wind Program, to be administered by that group on behalf of Peninsula Power for the Caterpillar Hill feasibility study.
The task of raising the remaining approximately $42,000 from other grants and donations was also discussed by the group on November 19.
The four towns’ template grants
One of the five requirements for the $10,000 template grants is that all four towns are applying to “[e]stablish a Community Energy Planning Committee which shall meet at least once a month, and shall be made up of representatives from the following groups: citizens, member(s) of the town government, member(s) of the business community, a representative of the school community, a student, and members of the transportation/waste management sectors (optional).”
These four town committees, likely appointed by the selectmen of each town, would be separate from the Peninsula Power group.
The second requirement of a template grant is to “[w]rite a community energy plan which documents the [town’s] intention for conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy and which will be the basis on which the Committee can make decisions for implementing the plan [with several required components].”
One of the remaining requirements is a plan for public participation. Also, there must be “at least one concrete, tangible first step” in a program that would save energy or reduce greenhouse gases, and lastly, a final report.
On the four application forms as submitted, the community energy plan outlines and budgets are similar:
The four communities each propose to use their remaining $2,500 for the following “concrete, tangible first step” in each town:
Brooksville’s custom project
Brooksville also applied for a “custom project” grant of $40,512 in an application prepared by Brooksville resident Ralph Chapman. The application’s summary statement begins, “the Town of Brooksville intends to demonstrate the value of a town-wide home weatherization initiative using low-cost quantitative thermal imaging of most (an estimated 250) of the houses within the town to identify those with the largest opportunity for benefiting from retrofit weatherization investments. The two-year project includes full energy auditing of ten homes and weatherizing five homes.”
The summary statement continues, “Skilled labor for implementing weatherization tasks is locally available and presently underemployed. Three nearby commercial financial institutions and two suppliers of building materials are interested in collaborating with the Town of Brooksville on this project.”
Brooksville’s 20-page custom grant application describes a detailed program for sending information about the home weatherization initiative to everyone with a Brooksville mailing address, and a solicitation for residences to give permissions to have their house infrared-photographed, an opportunity to participate in a survey, and to be “eligible for selection for full energy audits and house weatherization.”
As reported previously, the terms of the agreement for awarding funds of both the custom and the template grants provide that “any jobs that [a town receiving a grant] creates or seeks to fill as a result of this agreement” be posted locally, and also on the state “career center” Web site.
Sandy Cohen indicated in the meeting that he might be interested in a position funded by a town’s template grant. “If [a town] need[s] to post [a position] as a public job offering, we’ll apply for it and compete with whomever responds,” he said.
In addition towns receiving grants may also “retain technical consultant services to assist the eligible entity” as it carries out activities to achieve the program’s purposes.
All of the grants require a 10 percent match, which “can be cash or ‘in-kind’, meaning the value of services or equipment used in the project.”
Location, location, location
In a question period following the meeting, Trowbridge got out property maps showing the general locations of the Peninsula Power test tower and three possible wind turbines.
The test tower and one of the turbines would be on property owned by Gordon Gianninoto at the top of Caterpillar Hill (tax map 2, lot 10). The second turbine would be down hill to the north, on a lot owned by Heidi Lesinski (lot 7). The third turbine would be further down slope on a parcel in the “porch” section of Brooksville, tax map 8, lot 34. The owner of record is Brown Trowbridge Properties LLC. Paul Trowbridge said that his ownership share of that lot is 3 percent.
The proposed access road to the Peninsula Power sites would originate close to the Bangor Hydro Electric substation close to Route 15 and the Old County Road, where a connection might be made. BHE spokesperson Susan Faloon, in an e-mail reply to an inquiry from The Packet, said that because of MPUC customer privacy rules, she was not able to discuss details of possible connections to the grid without a release.
Trowbridge later told The Packet that BHE had called him to say that his earlier comments to The Packet regarding the cost of connections to the grid by Peninsula Power and the other possible wind turbine operator in the area, Coastal Green Energy, may have been premature. Neither group has yet submitted a formal application.
As previously reported, Coastal Green Energy (co-owner Ricky Spofford of Deer Isle), has a test tower that has been up for more than a year on the southerly side of Caterpillar Hill near Sargentville (map 2, lot 1). Spofford said that the locations of proposed turbines on his parcel have not yet been determined.