Solar funding possible for UMPI

Posted July 10, 2009, at 9:38 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:46 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The University of Maine at Presque Isle could receive $800,000 for a solar energy development project if a bill approved by a U.S. Senate committee containing $6.6 million in funding for Maine projects wins final approval by Congress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the funding Friday. It is included in the fiscal year 2010 energy and water appropriations bill. The measure now will be considered by the full Senate. A similar measure has not yet cleared the U.S. House.

If the campus receives the money, it would fund the design and installation of photovoltaic solar panel arrays that help convert solar energy into electricity.

The university also would establish an automated weather station to collect information on solar radiation levels. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said the station would provide baseline data for future use of solar energy, while also promoting undergraduate research.

The project would help “reduce electrical energy costs to the university, eliminate or reduce the need for additional air conditioning, provide a research and educational focus for the campus, and serve as a regional model for other businesses and schools,” Collins said in a statement.

UMPI President Don Zillman said the project was suggested by UMPI’s Green Committee, a group of campus professionals who propose ways to make the university more environmentally friendly.

The university already has made strides in reducing its energy costs and its impact on the environment. In May, the campus installed a 600-kilowatt wind turbine on campus.

University officials anticipate that the turbine will produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. The windmill also is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.

The windmill is located about 30 yards from the baseball fields.

While Zillman said he knew that the funding was not yet final, he said Friday that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the campus would receive the money.

Three other Maine projects also could be funded. The University of Maine is in line for $4.8 million for an offshore wind initiative, and Machiasport could receive $750,000 for a dredge project. Tremont also could receive $60,000 for a dredge project.

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