SANFORD, Maine — Adam Cote of Sanford, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Army and CEO of Thermal Energy Storage of Maine, was honored at the White House Tuesday as one of 12 Veterans Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security.
Cote, who is currently deployed as a company commander in Afghanistan with the Maine Army National Guard 133rd Engineering Battalion, joined Tuesday’s “Champions of Change” ceremony in Washington via Skype.
Cote has served in the military for 15 years, including deployments in Iraq and Bosnia.
His time in Iraq, he told the Bangor Daily News on Thursday — also via Skype — “was a strong impetus for me to want to do something with my life that helps Maine become more energy-independent.”
Founded in 2009 by Cote and his business partners, Thermal Energy Storage of Maine sells electric thermal storage furnaces and room heaters that allow users to purchase less-expensive electricity at off-peak hours, and store it for use.
“Maine is number one [in the] country for home heating oil … we’re not even close to being second,” Cote said. “And of course we get hit every time there’s a crisis in the Middle East, every time there’s a shortage, every time there’s an executive driving up the price — we get the hit the worst in Maine.”
Thermal energy storage units allow users to purchase electricity at approximately $.07 per kilowatt hour and heat their homes for the equivalent of about $2.90 per gallon of heating oil — far cheaper than the approximately $3.50 per gallon price in the Bangor area.
The cost for a room unit is $3,250 to $4,000 and whole house units range from $12,000 to $15,000, fully installed. Rebates of $1,500 to $4,500 are available until Dec. 31.
Cote said it sounds expensive until you look at the energy savings. He said he saved $1,250 last winter heating his home.
So far, approximately 100 homes in Maine have added some sort of thermal energy storage unit, Cote said.
Cote joined the military after graduating from Colby College, and served in Bosnia during the 1990s. In 2003 he was commissioned as an officer, and now serves as one of two company commanders with the 133rd Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Gardiner.
As an attorney at Pierce Atwood in Portland, he worked with USAID to write energy laws in such countries as Albania and Croatia.
“I learned a lot about the energy infrastructure, and it really reinforced in me the belief that we have the ability in Maine to not only create a lot of electricity, but to create clean, renewable energy,” he said.
“Mainers have a long streak of wanting to be independent,” he said. “I think I come from the Maine tradition that thinks we ought to be able to grow our own food, we ought to be able to power our own electricity and heat our own homes.
“I think a lot of times most people want to do what’s good for the environment, but it’s too expensive,” he said. “With this, I think it becomes something that your average person can do to contribute to it.”
The 133rd has been in Afghanistan for just more than a month, working to ensure “a safe, peaceful handoff” to the Afghan people. Cote won’t return to Maine until next summer.
“We definitely miss home,” he said of the 133rd. “But we’ve been busy. It’s a lot of work, but everyone’s doing well. Morale is very high — higher when people are busy. If you don’t have a lot to do, you can sit around and think about how much you miss home.”
Cote doesn’t relish the idea of spending Christmas away from his wife and five children, but they plan to set up a video camera and Skype from the living room.
“Right where the Christmas tree is,” he said. “That will be nice.”