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State awards alternative energy grants to Falmouth, Freeport, Cumberland

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State awards alternative energy grants to Falmouth, Freeport, Cumberland

FALMOUTH — Renewable energy projects will soon begin in Falmouth, Freeport and Cumberland, thanks to grants announced Tuesday to municipalities and school systems for demonstration programs.

Efficiency Maine, a program of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, awarded about $477,000 to 11 organizations for projects designed to promote and educate the community about renewable energy.

Requests for proposals were issued in August, and by Sept. 30 about 32 grant applications were returned, according to Efficiency Maine. The projects were reviewed by members of the PUC and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Kennebunk Valley Community College and Camden Hills Regional High School were awarded the maximum grant amounts of $50,000 for wind and solar panel projects, respectively. Other grants ranged from almost $21,000 to more than $45,000. Each grant requires a 20 percent match from the sponsoring community.

Falmouth High School

The Falmouth School Department received a grant of more than $45,200 for a 10.3-kilowatt photo-voltaic panel to be installed at the high school, Director of Finance and Operations Dan O'Shea said Tuesday.

"We chose the high school because we're doing a lot at the elementary school right now," he said.

O'Shea credited the town's energy and sustainability coordinator, Barbara DiBiase, with initiating the grant proposal and doing much of the work. High school teachers Gary Glick and John Kraljic worked on how to incorporate the panel, O'Shea said.

And the educational component to the grant will include a Web-based software package, which will allow students to "see how energy is collected and converted and to compare their results to other schools in the country," he added.

Expected to provide 14,000 kilowatt-hours annually, the panel will be installed on the school's roof, as visible as possible from Woodville Road, O'Shea said.

"It's not a huge panel, but it's a start," he said. "We'll probably continue to pursue future grants."

Matching funds for the grant are from Capital Reserve funds. The department expect to receive an Efficiency Maine rebate for an additional $3,000 of its $9,000 match, reducing the final amount to about $6,000, according to O'Shea.

Freeport library

In Freeport, the small-scale demonstration project will promote a roof-mounted photo-voltaic solar electric power array of 10.2 kilowatts. It will consist of 54 modules occupying 718 square feet, mounted on the roof of the library meeting room.

The project is designed to educate the community on the cost-effectiveness of harnessing natural resources for clean electricity. The library's central location makes it a good place for visibility and education, according to Town Planner Donna Larson, since middle school students visit after school and the library is often busy with adult groups, meetings and monthly events.

The project will convey and promote renewable energy production to the public through informational signs near the panels and a computer will be available for the public to monitor the production and consumption of electricity at the library.

Freeport was awarded more than $44,500, or 80 percent of the cost of the solar panels. According to the grant application, the project is expected to produce 1,169 kwh per month, or 14,025 kwh annually. Based on the current rate of energy consumption, the photovoltaic cells would supply nearly 16 percent of the total electrical consumption. The more electricity the library conserves, the higher the percentage of electricity produced by clean, renewable resources.

With the addition of the solar panels, according to the grant application, the library would save about $1,900 a year and annually offset nearly 18,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 32 pounds of sulfur dioxide emissions, and 17 pounds of oxides of nitrogen emissions.

The Town Council appropriated about $11,000 for the project on Sept. 22 from undesignated revenue. No additional approval is required, and the project is expected to take about three months to complete.

Greely High School

Greely High School received about $38,000 for an 8.3-kilowatt photo-voltaic solar electric power array. Julie Doughty, a social studies teacher and department head, said the solar panels will be placed either in the Greely Institute section of the school, opened in 1868, or the cafeteria in the newest part of the building, which connects to the institute.

"Our contractor is going to come in and really look at what's the best situation to get the maximum usage," Doughty said.

She said the school is expecting a savings of about 942 kwh of electricity per month, or more than 11,400 kwh annually.

The system should also offset nearly 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

The school is matching the grant money with $9,500. Greely's money came through fundraising by the school's student-initiated Global Awareness Club, which Doughty advises.

"Last year there were two students in particular who kind of made it their mission to try to make the school more environmentally friendly," she said, referring to Dana Hanley and Tess Carley, both of whom graduated this year. "They calculated the carbon footprint of the school, and did some research, and got the group energized around applying for this grant."

Fairchild Semiconductor is donating $5,000 of the school's match. The rest has come through fundraising events, including a Bob Marley comedy show and bake sales.

Peggy Roberts and Alex Lear contributed to this report. Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.