Brunswick Landing closer to becoming energy 'island'

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BRUNSWICK — A goal of producing all energy on-site through renewable sources is two steps closer at Brunswick Landing.

About a month ago, the business campus signed a lease and power-purchase agreement with Revision Energy to install solar panels on 5 acres of land, Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, MRRA announced it is searching for a partner to make enhancements to its electric microgrid, what Levesque called a move toward optimizing the campus’ goal of functioning as an independent “island” of renewable energy.

He said the improvements are aimed at attracting businesses in the market for green, reliable power that is safeguarded against failures in the outside electric grid.

“We also want to be in a position to utilize the MRRA-owned electric grid as a platform and ‘living laboratory’ for the development and application of new technologies in the generation, distribution and management of energy,” Levesque said. “This concept is what we call the Brunswick Renewable Energy Center.”

Brunswick Landing already operates its own electric grid of about 17 miles of electrical systems installed by the U.S. Navy when the site was a naval air station.

The present demand for power is about 3 megawatts, Levesque said, from about 120 customers on campus.

About one-third of that power is already generated on-site by an anaerobic biodigester, which Levesque said “basically acts like a mechanical cow stomach,” housing bugs that turn sewage into methane, which in turn powers electricity-producing turbines.

The remaining two-thirds of electricity is purchased outside the Landing from renewable sources, meaning the business campus already runs on 100 percent green power. MRRA buys its energy from Maine Power Options, and pays Central Maine Power a fee to transfer it from the outside to the Landing’s independently owned grid.

When the solar field is operational – Levesque said the panels are being stored on campus, awaiting several permits before contruction can begin – it will produce 1.5 MW of solar energy, or half of the campus’ demand.

When combined with what the biodigester’s output, the campus is expected to produce about 80 percent of its demand on-site “hopefully by late fall,” Levesque said.

When that number reaches 100 percent, the campus will be considered an “island,” which Levesque said has unique advantages.

When all of its energy is created on-site, the Landing won’t rely on the CMP grid to meet any of its demand for electricity.

That ability might attract companies that place a special value on protections against system failures to the outside grid, Levesque suggested – for example, cyber security companies or secure data centers.

As MRRA beefs up its production, it plans to hire an outside firm to help manage and storage that power as efficiently as possible. Right now, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of MRRA’s public works director.

Ultimately, MRRA envisions the campus as a “test bed” for new technology and sources of energy, and Levesque said the campus is open to a number of ways it can achieve the remaining 20 percent of its goal.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.
  • FarmerTom

    Nice!