Greenville seeks solar, wind power

Posted Dec. 29, 2009, at 9:09 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:07 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — If the funding falls into place, the Greenville Municipal Building could be powered by a wind generator and its water heated by solar panels, likely making it the first town office in the state to use alternative energy.

Town officials, through the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, applied for a nearly $80,000 federal energy efficiency block grant to purchase and install the alternative energy sources. A decision on the grant is expected early next month.

“Every year, you look at the same budget figures and there are certain figures you just can’t move, like heating and electricity to different buildings,” Greenville Town Manager John Simko said this week. “So when you look at that same number year after year, you just keep pulling your hair out trying to figure out how can you reduce the budget. When you have a grant opportunity to reduce that, we should jump on it.”

The block grant would provide the town funds to purchase a 10-kilowatt wind generator to power the electrical needs of the municipal building, and solar panels for the roof to provide the hot water for the building’s heating system.

Mike Starn, Maine Municipal Association’s communications director, said Tuesday there’s a lot of interest in alternative energy by town and city officials throughout the state. “I think in the next year or two, you’re going to see quite a few of these type projects.”

Government has a responsibility to lead, Starn said. The federal government has made it clear that President Obama and his administration are very interested in alternative energy possibilities, he said. The state also has embraced those possibilities. He said this tells him that government at every level is very interested in being part of a solution to reducing this country’s dependence on fossil fuel.

“John has been a vocal person among town managers of being very interested in kind of a futuristic view of what town government can do, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s trying to be creative and kind of ahead of the pack in terms of moving in this direction,” Starn said.

If the grant were approved, the changeover would save the town about $5,000 annually in electricity costs, according to Ken Woodbury Jr. of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council. Woodbury, who wrote the grant, said the town would have to provide a 10 percent match.

Because the grant opportunity came after the annual town meeting, the local $7,000 match was not budgeted, according to Simko. To find the funds, Simko sought and received a $3,500 grant from Plum Creek Timber Co., which owns land in the Moosehead Lake region. He said he believed the other half of the local match could be made up through the energy savings that would result from the project.

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