The field on Isle au Haut where a solar array will be installed to power the remote island. Excess power from the array will be turned into thermal heat for buildings and homes on the island. Credit: Courtesy of Morgan Casella, Dynamic Organics

Introspective Systems, a Portland-based innovation company, and Brightmerge, a Jerusalem, Israel, alternative energy company, were awarded close to $2 million to collaborate on developing and testing certain aspects of microgrids during the next two years.

A joint U.S.-Israeli foundation called the Binational Industrial Research and Development Energy program, also known as BIRD Energy, has funded six projects, including the one involving Introspective.

During the collaborative project, Introspective aims to develop and test hardware and software for dynamic grid pricing that can give the price of energy at any given time, notably during peak demand. The company also is developing edge devices that can respond to pricing signals on the grid so local communities can control costs.

The Israeli company will develop systems that can collect information on how all systems on the microgrid are performing.

Introspective will receive the bulk of the $1.95 million for the project, about $1.05 million of it. Introspective and Brightmerge must provide matching funds for half of the total amount of the project grant. That means Introspective must raise about $524,800. Aikin said Introspective currently is trying to raise up to $3 million for the match and other ongoing business.

Aikin expects to hire as many as four more people in 2019 as a result of the project.

Introspective uses artificial intelligence to help complex systems such as energy microgrids make decisions about managing themselves.

The company separately is creating a model for a planned microgrid on Isle au Haut to determine how it can bring down energy costs, said Kay Aikin, CEO of Introspective.

Microgrids also potentially could be sold to business and college campuses to reduce energy costs.

In a separate development, CourseStorm, an Orono startup that sells an online class registration service, has raised more than $618,000 of a total $1.25 million fundraising effort in debt and options, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Ski tourism means money for Mainers renting out their homes

Some 37,800 guests came to Maine during the 2017-18 ski season, many of whom needed accommodations, a recent Airbnb survey found.

About 15 percent of the visitors were families.

“As the temperature drops and the ski season kicks off, home sharing is helping to bring critical tourism dollars into communities across Maine, benefiting residents and businesses alike,” Josh Meltzer, head of Northeast Policy for Airbnb, said in a statement.

The top origin states for guests were Massachusetts, Maine (with other Maine residents using Airbnb when they traveled to other parts of the state to ski) and New York.

Airbnb found that about 1,200 Mainers hosted guests. They made approximately $4.56 million during the 2017-18 ski season. The typical host made about $2,034.

Maine ranks 16th nationally in protecting children from tobacco

Maine spent $4.8 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, ranking it 16th nationwide in funding programs that prevent kids from using tobacco and help smokers quit.

That’s according to a report released Friday by public health groups.

But that figure is still only about one-third, 30.4 percent, of the $15.9 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 20 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Truth Initiative.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1998 legal settlement between states and the tobacco companies, which required the companies to pay more than $200 billion over time as compensation for tobacco-related health care costs.

The report challenges states to do more to fight tobacco use and confront the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use in America. In Maine, 8.7 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes, while 15.8 percent use e-cigarettes, the study found.

Tobacco use claims 2,400 Maine lives and costs the state $811 million in health care bills annually, according to the report.

The other findings include that Maine will collect $188.5 million in revenue this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 2.6 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs.

Tobacco companies spend $46.7 million each year to market their products in Maine, more than nine times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

“Maine has made significant progress, but its inadequate funding for tobacco prevention programs is putting kids’ health at risk and burdening taxpayers with higher tobacco-related health care costs,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.