Cape Elizabeth energy panel works on long-term savings

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CAPE ELIZABETH — After three years of work, the Cape Elizabeth Alternative Energy Committee is still finding ways to limit the town’s carbon footprint and reduce energy costs.

With the help of a few extra hands, panel members say they are ready to tackle long-term energy savings by researching and considering alternative power sources.

The group recently lost three members, but welcomed Brian Denison to its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the William Jordan conference room. The other members are Chairman Wyman Briggs, former Chairman Bill Slack, Alan Lishness and David Whittan.

Since its inception in October 2007, the committee has created an alternative energy strategy for school and municipal buildings; contracted for an energy audit of town buildings; updated lighting, insulation and occupancy sensors in the schools and installed controller upgrades.

Ernie MacVane, the town facilities manager, said the biggest accomplishment has been lighting upgrades. He said 10,000 light bulbs have been replaced with the help of $110,000 in grants from Efficiency Maine. There are now 20-watt LED lights outside the fire station and 40-watt LED lights above the doors.

The next lighting project will include upgrades to parking lot and sidewalk lights, as well as an evaluation of the number and location of town street lights, he said. 

Looking ahead, the committee will consider alternative energy options that have large potential savings, such as the use of natural gas and solar thermal.

Lishness said even though it could cost about $1.4 million to pipe natural gas from South Portland to Cape’s town center, he said it could create significant savings when compared to future oil prices.

“At this point, it looks like the biggest savings to the taxpayer,” Lishness said. “I think we need to really discuss this or put it to bed.”

The group may discuss natural gas at the December meeting, and with a budget of roughly $25,000, MacVane suggested hiring a consultant for additional information.

The committee will also research geothermal options by monitoring local companies and schools that have installed the systems. Members will research the cost, maintenance fees and performance. 

Whittan suggested recruiting more residents for the committee, too.

“There are a lot of smart and dedicated people in our community,” Whittan said. “The more people who participate, the more we can accomplish in a shorter amount of time.”

The committee did not schedule a time or date for its next meeting yet, but will post it on the town website.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]