Communities receive municipal energy grants
YARMOUTH – Projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and energy costs will soon begin in communities receiving grants to help reach conservation goals.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission announced the first round of energy conservation block grants on Friday, Feb. 12. Yarmouth, Cumberland, Freeport and Falmouth were among the 87 communities chosen.
There were 94 applications submitted for the $3.9 million in grants, and each municipality could have received up to $85,000.
The state of Maine Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant was awarded by the Maine PUC as part of a $9.5 million program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Freeport received $81,000, Falmouth was awarded $76,000, Cumberland received $75,000 and Yarmouth received $55,000.
Town Planner Donna Larson said the $81,000 in stimulus funds will be used for energy improvements in several town buildings. A local match will come from about $18,000 in reserve funds and in-kind work worth about $6,000.
Larson said projects include insulation in the basement and attic of the town offices, an on-demand hot water heater, window treatments and lighting upgrades. According to the PUC report, Freeport could save 306,000 kilowatt hours, 2,300 gallons of propane and 2,600 gallons of oil per year.
The grant would pay for improvements to the public works and public safety buildings, and solar panels will be installed at the Winslow Park shower house to generate heat for the hot water heater.
Turning a few street lights out and rewiring lights in town buildings will also save a significant amount, Larson said.
"We are ready to go," Larson said of the projects. "I'm ready to start this work tomorrow."
In Falmouth, energy and sustainability coordinator Barbara DiBiase said the grant will help the town reach many of its energy goals.
"We applied for seven projects, and received funding for six," she said. "It was wonderful news."
Some of the projects include the replacement of six overhead doors at the Public Works Department to reduce propane use by 12 percent, and the installation of solar hot water heaters at the Central and West Falmouth fire stations.
DiBiase said a new fuel reduction system called IdleRight will help police and service vehicles save on gas consumption when idling. The system monitors the car battery levels and turns the engine on only when the battery needs a recharge, she said.
The grant money will also be used for comprehensive energy audits for town buildings and schools and will help start the Falmouth Green Ribbon climate action plan.
With their funding the town could save $864,000 a year in energy costs and 9,525 metric tons of greenhouse gases, according to the PUC.
Cumberland will provide a match of nearly $8,300 for its grant. The funds are going toward a solar hot water system for Town Hall and two fire stations, and other improvements to the Town Hall heating system.
Finance Director Alex Kimball said the heating system upgrade will save the town $5,000 it would have had to spend next month for repairs to the existing system.
“So we've made some of our money back instantly on that,” Kimball said on Tuesday, adding that the upgrades would also save the town fuel and will do a better job heating the building.
He said Town Hall is a “perfect” site for a solar hot water tank, and that there will be a lot of public outreach to explain the impact of the new system.
The fire stations house people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Kimball explained. They require a constant supply of hot water for uses like cleaning equipment and showers.
“One of the things that exists with these solar hot water systems is that the more hot water you're using, the more money they save,” Kimball said.
The solar hot water systems should save 45 million British thermal units or 13,000 kilowatt hours a year, with a projected lifetime savings over 20 years of 900 million Btu or 260,000 kWh.
The heating systems are expected to save 54 million Btu or nearly 11,000 kWh a year, and 822 million Btu or 165,000 kWh over their 15-year projected lifetime.
The Yarmouth Energy Savers since 2007 have encouraged reduction of energy use and fuels in municipal operations and facilities, and seeks to lessen the town's environmental impact.
According to YES Chairwoman Marge Titcomb, the group plans to use the grant money to upgrade the waste-water treatment facility motors, drives and controls. The plan is ready, but could not move forward because of a lack of funding.
"We are so excited about the grant money," Titcomb said. "The facility is the largest energy user in town, and now we can replace the aerator motors and install a new monitored, energy-efficient system."
She said the project will reduce the amount of electrical energy used and the money will not have to come from the capital improvement plan.
The matching and in-kind matching funds total about $6,000 and the cost of the total project will be about $61,000.
Alex Lear contributed to this report. Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.