PUC gets funds for Aroostook wind projects

Posted Aug. 12, 2009, at 8:15 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:45 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Windmills, both for personal and business use, are becoming familiar sights in Aroostook County. A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program could lead to still more of the structures, as the funds will be used in part to support the development of new small wind-power related businesses in the region.

U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins announced Wednesday that the $50,000 grant was awarded to the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The agency will use the grant funding to provide technical assistance and training to support the development of new small wind-power related businesses in Aroostook County.

Tim Vrabel, deputy director of energy programs for the PUC, said Wednesday that the grant has three objectives.

The first will be to purchase and install a meteorological tower at a test site in the region. The location of the site has yet to be determined. The towers are equipped with instruments to collect wind data to ensure suitable wind speeds for wind energy projects.

Vrabel confirmed that if data gathered by the tower are favorable, the PUC could consider constructing a windmill in that spot in the future.

The second objective will be to educate business owners about wind power and encourage more businesses to participate in such projects.

The final objective will be to bring more wind experts to The County to raise awareness about windmills and wind farms.

Vrabel pointed out that a conference about wind energy has been held in Presque Isle for the past several years and will take place again this fall. The conferences provide information on how wind resources can be developed to benefit rural economies, including businesses, municipalities, agricultural producers and homeowners. Speakers have discussed how wind power works and have touched on available economic support for the development of wind projects.

“We will use the grant to bring more expertise to Presque Isle to inspire more people to consider wind,” said Vrabel.

The date of the conference was not available Wednesday.

Snowe and Collins said in a joint statement that “Maine is well positioned to be a leader in the development of wind power, and this investment will help boost economic growth in Aroostook County.”

The USDA Rural Development program provides financial loans and grants to help improve the economy and quality of life in rural America.

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