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Brunswick man tapped to lead renewable energy initiative at BNAS; Trafton replaces Richardson on MRRA

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Brunswick man tapped to lead renewable energy initiative at BNAS; Trafton replaces Richardson on MRRA

BRUNSWICK — A Brunswick man has been hired to lead a renewable energy initiative at the to-be-redeveloped Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, announced the hiring of Thomas Brubaker at Tuesday's meeting of the MRRA board.

Also Tuesday, Thaxter Trafton replaced John Richardson on the board, which again did not publicly discuss or vote on a proposed agreement to bring Oxford Aviation to BNAS.

Levesque said a $200,000 contract award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, combined with a $200,000 award from the Maine Technology Institute, allows MRRA to initiate a renewable energy center feasibility study and hire a clean technology manager.

He called the initiative "a real exciting opportunity to be ... a leader here in a very dynamic growth sector in the United States. ... Renewable energy is a major focus of U.S. economic policy, and it's one of Maine's key economic targets."

The base, including the Topsham Annex, has nearly 2 million square feet of industrial and commercial space, as well as 13 miles of electric transmission lines, Levesque said. He added that within 50 miles of Brunswick are 21,000 workers in occupations that will likely produce "green" workers and noted that renewable energy is a key element in the reuse planning process.

"Our vision of (the center) is really an energy-centered business and living complex," Levesque said. "It's going to be a living laboratory ... for research and development, manufacturing, prototype development and company incubation around the whole renewable sector. We also envision this to really be a place where people can produce ... green energy technology products and services."

He called the place an "epicenter" for occupants of the future redevelopment that want to test green products like new types of solar panels or wind turbine blades.

Levesque said the center could be a place for new and sustainable high-paying jobs, and for the development and showcasing of renewable power production and distribution.

An approximately 18-month, four-step study process will begin with an examination of the base's existing power supply, control and delivery system to determine changes necessary to facilitate an energy park. An assessment of renewable energy technologies, possibly available for on-site generation and use, will be followed by the identification of energy technology partnerships.

The structuring of the kind of management entity and legal structure most suited for oversight of the energy infrastructure will conclude the process, along with identification of what key functions must be performed and what issues must be addressed to make the project a reality.

"I travel a lot," board member Adam Cote told Levesque. "And frankly, there isn't a community in the country that isn't talking about establishing green technology. ... So I think, first of all, we need to recognize that. And second of all, I think based upon that we should try to see what we have for advantages to make us unique. And I think you've identified a lot of them."

Brubaker has more than 34 years' worth of management and leadership experience in energy and facilities management, construction and engineering, Levesque said. He now serves as network energy manager for the VA New England Healthcare System, and previously served as deputy public works officer and civil engineer/planner at BNAS.

Levesque said Brubaker's experience with energy applications to large facilities, as well as his familiarity with the base's infrastructure and buildings, will benefit both the redevelopment effort and the renewable energy initiative.

Trafton in, Richardson out

Trafton, Gov. John Baldacci's nominee for commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, attended his first meeting of the MRRA. Richardson resigned from DECD and MRRA on Monday when he announced his long-anticipated candidacy for governor.

Trafton has served as deputy commissioner of the DECD since 2006. Prior to that, the Augusta resident spent three years as the department's director of business development.

Trafton moved to Bath with his family when he was 4 and graduated in 1955 from Morse High School. His career has included time as president and commissioner of the International Basketball League, and as team president of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Richfield Stadium in Richfield, Ohio. He also once served as executive director of the Bass Park Complex in Bangor.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.