DEXTER, Maine — Debra Burdin hopes to look across her Route 7 property someday and see a line of windmills churning the air on the high hills that frame this Penobscot County community.
Burdin envisions local farms, homes and schools getting their energy from either wind or solar power in the future, leaving dependence on oil to other regions. The hilly terrain that surrounds the town is ideal for wind and solar power, she said.
As owners of Burdin’s Renewable Energy in Dexter, Debra and her husband, Shawn Burdin, recognize the savings that such a change would bring to property owners and the Earth.
“We’ve really been hard on this old Earth and we have to smarten up,” Burdin said during a recent interview. “We’re in a time of rapid change and that means we have to move fast. Green is what we got to do.”
The Burdins, who also operate a plant business called Bwarts, have sold about 10 small wind turbines in the past year in the region. While it’s the spring and winter winds that really make the difference, Debra Burdin said some homeowners have called this summer and reported that their meters were spinning backward on cer-tain days, which means they were essentially selling electricity to Central Maine Power Co.
To help educate the public on renewable energy, the Burdins are offering free workshops this fall at their business. At 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7 and Oct. 21 the business will offer an energy program for farmers and small businesses. John Sheehan of USDA Rural Development will be in attendance to discuss energy grants.
More for the general public, “Go Green, Grow Green” will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 17. Richard Fortier from Efficiency Maine will be among those who will speak on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. A statewide effort, Efficiency Maine aims to promote better use of electricity, reduce energy costs, and improve the environment.
How to build a solar panel will be the focus of an Oct. 24 workshop. Burdin said David Nguyen, her business account manager, is investigating the startup of a solar production mill to build solar panels in the region.
While the state is touting renewable energy, Burdin said only four people are certified to install solar panels in Maine. While any electrician can do the work, customers can’t get their rebate and grants unless a person is certified in solar. She said more people need to get their certification to do this work, or the Legislature should relax the law.
As for wind power, Burdin said her business installs and services its windmills. To date, the favored windmill is the “Skystream” wind turbine, which costs about $16,000, she said. The turbines come with a 30 percent federal tax credit-rebate and a $2,000 state credit for residential homes and $4,000 for businesses, she ex-plained.
“That brings the cost dramatically down,” Burdin said. It’s about 40 percent to 50 percent off the total cost of the wind turbine system.
“It takes brave people, like these first ones who are putting the windmills up, [to generate widespread interest],” Burdin said. “Later this is just going to roll.” As renewable-energy businesses flourish, Burdin said entrepreneurs such as Nguyen will start producing the products, which in turn, will create manufacturing jobs in the states. “I know people would like that.”