South Portland passed over for wind meter, seeks energy czar

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city will be looking for someone to coordinate a variety of energy and sustainability initiatives.

But one of those initiatives – exploring the possibility of installing a wind turbine at Wainwright Farms – was dealt a setback this week.

The city applied for free wind measuring equipment from Efficiency Maine in October, but was not selected to receive one of six anemometers.

Michael Barden, Efficiency Maine’s grant coordinator, said fewer than a dozen communities applied for the wind testing program, which includes wind anemometers, 100-foot tall towers and data analysis by the University of Maine Orono.

Barden said South Portland’s application came in seventh when the scoring process was completed.

“Based on the scoring system, (South Portland) didn’t score as well as other communities,” he said.

Communities were scored based on the technical merits, resources and society benefits. While South Portland didn’t score well in the latter category, Assistant City Manager Erik Carson said he believed the project should have scored better.

“I believe we had a good potential for a teaching moment for this project for the community,” Carson said.

City officials will continue to pursue bringing wind power to South Portland, he said.

“We will look at this location and others to see what makes sense,” Carson said. “Being on the coast is a strong plus for this technology.”

Barden said Efficiency Maine expects several wind towers and meters that are currently being used to be decommissioned in the coming months. Another round of applications will likely be accepted in first quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, city officials are finalizing the job description of an energy czar/sustainability coordinator.

City Manager Jim Gailey said the city is looking for an individual to create a citywide sustainability plan. Gailey said he is talking with a neighboring community about sharing that position.

The coordinator’s work would include developing and managing effective programs to improve the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in both the public and private sectors.

The individual selected for the position, to be funded by a two-year grant, would be responsible for monitoring, measuring and reporting program performance, in additional to seeking other grant opportunities.

The energy czar could also play a role in the development and implementation of a municipal energy company, should the City Council decide to form one.

The council was presented in August with a proposal to create a 25-megawatt power plant, fueled by natural gas, near the Portland International Jetport.

The “Combined Heating and Cooling Power Plant” would supply electricity for Fairchild Semiconductor and thermal energy to National Semiconductor at a time when electricity prices are reducing the profit margins for both companies.

City officials hope that reduced energy costs will provide incentive for the two companies, which together employ more than 2,000 people, to remain in South Portland.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or