May 30, 2020
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Hancock County considers energy upgrades

ELLSWORTH, Maine — With the help of a grant from the federal Department of Energy, Hancock County officials hope to figure out how to reduce the county’s energy costs.

The county hopes to use a little more than $40,000 of the nearly $227,000 grant to conduct an energy audit of the Hancock County Courthouse on State Street, according to Philip Roy, the county’s chief financial officer.

With the audit, county officials expect to find out where they will get the most bang for their buck for the rest of the grant funds, Roy said Monday. Where possible, they would like to reduce or eliminate the county’s dependence on expensive fossil fuels, he said.

“[The grant] is to enable us to do energy upgrades to this building,” Roy said.

But before it has the audit done, the county plans to hold a public information meeting to give nearby residents and county taxpayers the chance to tell county commissioners what they think about the options. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in the county commissioners’ meeting room near the district court clerk’s office, according to Roy.

“A lot of times, the public has ideas that we don’t think about,” Roy said. “We really want to hear their opinions.”

Some of the preliminary ideas that have come up include erecting a wind turbine behind the courthouse and attached jail, overlooking the Union River. Solar panels could be installed on the roof, new energy efficient lighting could be put in throughout the courthouse complex, and a geothermal heating and cooling system might be pursued for the district attorney’s office building. York County already heats and cools its courthouse with a geothermal system, he said.

Roy said a geothermal system for the larger courthouse building likely would be cost-prohibitive to install, but could work for the smaller district attorney’s office. If the county decides to keep the relatively new furnace at the district attorney building, he said, it may just decide to replace the heating registers to make that system more efficient.

Roy said the county hopes to have an idea of how to proceed with energy upgrades by the end of March, after it has heard from the public and conducted the energy audit.

“That’s our goal, to save money in the long run,” Roy said.

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