Music helps spread word about alternative energy

Posted Sept. 01, 2008, at 8:03 p.m.

UNION, Maine — Organizers of the first Labor Day forum on alternative energy used music and speeches to spread the word on the need to find a new source of heat besides oil.

Rich Simon, owner of a hardwood lumber business in Washington; his wife, Susan Bickford; and local builder Ray Montana pulled together 10 bands and individual entertainers from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday to present a forum for ideas for change.

Simon said much has been written already about alternative energy sources, but the ideas have not come from the people, but from government or big energy producers.

“Musicians can report the spirit of America,” said Simon, expressing his belief that music is a good vehicle for new ideas. “Things can happen through music. When Woodstock came, nobody saw it coming.”

Montana, who works with Simon, installs alternative energy systems. He cited photovoltaic cells, solar power, windmills and tidal power as alternatives to oil. He and his wife are building an alternative-energy home on a mountain in Union.

“Union has a renewable energy group that meets once a month made up of citizens,” said Montana.

“Citizens is a big part of what we’re doing here,” Simon said. “I really believe that what happens when government has been in power for a while, it becomes complacent.”

During World War II people made sacrifices, he pointed out, but complacency now has led people to expect things to be done for them, he said.

“Now no one sacrifices,” he said. “Instead, the government is giving money back to the people.

“The government has no plan on how they’re going to resolve our energy crisis,” he said, adding that it would be up to the people to find a way.

“We probably could do some more drilling and get more natural gas, but long-term oil is not our solution for energy that sun and wind could provide,” he said.

For eight hours the musicians delivered their message in story and song, while visitors spread blankets on the lawn in front of the main stage or sat at picnic tables under a big tent to listen and talk. Others danced on the lawn in front of the main stage.

Simon believes that the state’s proposal to build a Route 1 bypass in Wiscasset is wrong-headed because it’s continuing to encourage use of vehicles. Instead, that money could be funneled into alternative energy. If people drove fewer hours in their cars, the demand for the bypass would be reduced, he said.

Montana said the $2 million grant to Maine Maritime Academy to develop a way to harness tidal power is another encouraging alternative to oil.

“There’s a whole program in the college focusing on tidal energy,” he said.

He also believes that Bath Iron Works could retool to build windmills for proposed projects on North Haven and Vinalhaven.

“The problem is, they’ve got to wait for two years to go to Europe to buy the windmills,” Montana said.

Windmills have to be built near the ocean, he said, and because of their huge size, “The only way to get them anywhere is by barge.”

“We’ve got one of the best composite labs at the University of Maine and a lot of good people there who could lend their ideas and expertise on materials and design,” he said, “and we could build the windmills at Bath.”

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