Web exclusive, November 19, 2009
Wind power, energy conservation, addressed from several directions
by Jonathan Thomas
Higher energy prices and federal economic stimulus funds have sparked interest in wind power and energy conservation.
Coastal Green Energy was one of the first companies in the area to take advantage of the situation by setting up a wind test tower in July 2008 on its land near Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick. Ricky Spofford, one of the co-owners, lives in Deer Isle.
Sedgwick resident Paul Trowbridge had been following the efforts of residents in the North Haven/Vinalhaven island area, who set up a nonprofit organization to erect three wind-powered turbines in that area. These turbines, which are now in operation, are connected to the power grid with the ability to sell excess power to the mainland. (See June 18 and October 29 issues of The Weekly Packet.)
Trowbridge has formed a group called Peninsula Power Project, which has been meeting biweekly at the Blue Hill Town Hall. Peninsula Power, working with the Sedgwick selectmen, has applied for a grant for a wind turbine site survey, funded by the Community-Based Renewable Energy Act passed by the Maine legislature in the spring of 2009. The request for proposals does not specify a payment amount, but rather the loan of an anemometer tower with installation supervised by the University of Maine.
The site listed on the application is on land at the top of Caterpillar Hill owned by Gordon Gianninoto. The grant would be part of the Efficiency Maine program of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, working with the University of Maine. Nonprofit organizations, businesses and municipalities may apply for grants under this program. The application, which lists the town of Sedgwick and the Peninsula Power Project as jointly applying, was submitted at the end of October, with awards to be announced on or before December 1.
The minutes of the October 29 Sedgwick selectmen’s meeting say “approval to go ahead with the grant was given.” First Selectman Nelson Grindal said later that this approval was only preliminary, and that the board was reserving the right to decide whether to accept the grant if it were to be awarded.
Trowbridge said that Peninsula Power is following the Vinalhaven/Fox Islands model as a nonprofit and is part of the Maine Community Wind Program of the Island Institute.
Meanwhile, Spofford told The Weekly Packet that he is pleased with the test results that have been coming from Coastal Green’s tower, and that he would be able to release results in about four weeks. He said he is currently working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection regarding boundary setbacks for the towers he will be proposing. He said he is also working on cost-savings or other benefits that his company would share with the community, but that he was not ready to be specific.
Trowbridge told The Weekly Packet that he understands from Bangor Hydro Electric Company, which distributes power throughout the region, that there would be sufficient demand and sufficient line capacity in the area for both the privately funded Coastal Green Energy wind turbines and those belonging to the nonprofit Peninsula Power, if they were all to be connected. Trowbridge added that because of equipment needs at the Brooksville substation, the first wind power supplier would be connected at no charge, while the second would have extra costs to connect. Federal stimulus funds
The state is also handling Federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Project grants provided by Federal Recovery Act of 2009. Unlike the state program referred to above, only municipalities are able to apply and receive these funds. However, towns may include in their applications uses that “support the core principles” of the grant program that “will be used in a cost-effective way to generate ongoing benefits in energy efficiency and emission reductions.” One of these principles is to “[i]nvest in programs and projects that create and/or retain jobs and stimulate the economy while meeting long term energy goals.”
There are two types of these grants: Custom Projects, awarded on a competitive basis in amounts up to $85,000; and Template Projects, that provide up to $10,000 per town on a funds-available basis. If there are more eligible towns than can be funded for the full $10,000, the available money will be divided among the eligible towns.
Members of Peninsula Power, including Paul Trowbridge, Sandy Cohen, and Colin Tareila, working with selectmen from the towns of Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville and Sedgwick, have prepared template grant applications (most about six pages long) on behalf of these towns. Each of these applications would direct half the funding request, or $5,000, to Peninsula Power and its long-term goals for electricity generation from less polluting sources. Trowbridge acknowledged that his group is seeking to raise funds through these template grants, and wherever else it can, to secure the funds needed to advance the effort to locally generate wind power. (He had earlier estimated that costs for the feasibility study might be about $65,000.)
The template grant applications, due on November 18, did not require formal signatures by a town selectman. Board of selectmen chairmen Jerry Gray of Brooklin and John Gray of Brooksville confirmed their approval of the applications to The Weekly Packet. Sedgwick’s administrative assistant Barbara Grindle said that Sedgwick’s board has approved submitting that town’s application.
Blue Hill selectman Jim Schatz, who has attended many of the Peninsula Power meetings, is listed as the primary contact on Blue Hill’s application. As of press time Blue Hill’s board of selectmen had not taken a formal vote to support the grant application, but according to Schatz it had been submitted.
The other half of the funds in each of these four template applications would be used for near-term “conservation and efficiency measures” for saving energy. One of the requirements listed in all four applications is the formation of a community energy planning committee in each town.
A partial list of projects specific to each town include:
Funds for these grants would be paid to each town pursuant to a detailed purchase of services agreement signed by a state official and a selectman. Because new jobs may be created with these grants, the contract requires the posting of “any jobs that [the town] creates or seeks to fill as a result of this agreement” and to also post such jobs on the state “career center” Web site.
In addition to the four template applications described above, Brooksville has also submitted a custom grant application for a townwide home-weatherization initiative. The 20-page application prepared by Ralph Chapman includes a letter of support signed by the three selectmen.