Maine Trails, June - July '08
Inside Cover
President's Message
Cover Story
Maine News
Association News
Guest Column: Rep. Tom Allen
Guest Column: Senator Susan Collins

Wind, water and liquid natural gas

Looking for energy options at MBTA Eastport meeting

By Kathryn Buxton

As rising energy prices captured the headlines early this summer and gas pushed $4.19 per gallon at service stations on Route 1 in Eastport, MBTA members at the annual Washington County meeting gathered to discuss energy alternatives on June 12 at the Eastport Chowder House.

The downeast region is currently in the forefront of the alternative energy debate, with several major projects in various stages of development. Ninety MBTA members, family, Maine lawmakers and friends attended the meeting that featured a panel discussion about three promising alternative energy sources: wind power, tidal power and liquid natural gas.

Chris Gardner, director of the Eastport Port Authority, moderated the evening’s panel discussion. Eastport City Manager Bud Finch welcomed the group and presented Maria Fuentes, MBTA director, with The Island City, a book detailing the rich history of the city of Eastport. Four legislators were among the group: Senator Kevin Raye (R-Eastport); Representative Dusty Fisher (D-Brewer); Representative Ian Emery (R-Cutler); and Representative Howard McFadden (R-
Dennysville).

Offshore opportunities

On the energy alternatives panel were two groups working to bring liquid natural gas facilities to Washington County. Dean Girdis of Downeast LNG and Representative Ian Emery (R-Cutler) of Calais LNG talked about their firms’ progress in winning local and environmental approvals for their projects. Any major new construction can present challenges – and that has been the history of LNG projects in Maine to date; other LNG proposals originally intended for the waters in midcoast Maine met with significant local resistance that eventually derailed the projects. Girdis and Emery talked about how their groups are working with regulatory agencies and community leaders – and hopefully building the local goodwill needed to bring an LNG facility to the region.

Harnessing the elements

One of the most innovative proposals on the discusion table that evening was a project to develop a turbine that would generate power from the natural movement of the tides. John Ferland of Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC Maine) spoke of a recent successful test in Passamaquoddy Bay of a prototype tidal turbine and ORPC’s commitment to take the technology to the next phase: development of a smaller, commercial prototype that would work in river waters as well as tidal currents.

Tim Folster of Sargent Corp. spoke on behalf of First Wind, a company that has one wind farm currently operating at Mars Hill and a second one under construction at Stetson Mountain. Sargent Corp. is the earthwork contractor on both of those projects. He spoke of the enormous potential of wind and how the Mars Hill wind farm, with 28 turbines, was already generating 167 million kilowatts per hour – the equivalent of 13 million gallons of fuel a day. The new Stetson Mountain facility will have 38 turbines and generate even more power than Mars Hill. Folster said constructing these projects has given him an idea of what it must have been like to work on the new interstate 50 years ago. Combined, the two projects have included construction of 17 miles of new road. Folster said wind power should remain a key part of the state’s energy policy in years to come because of Maine’s available “open space and unique topography.”

Important business

Time was taken during the evening to honor two individuals who have meant a lot in the fight for better transportation in Maine. Don Raye, a former MBTA president, took a moment to speak on behalf of Al Prince who passed away the week before. The group had a moment of silence in memory of the former president of Maine Good Roads (the predecessor organization to the MBTA) and winner of the MBTA’s lifetime achievement award.

Greg Dore, current MBTA president, also presented Rep. Fisher with a framed photo of the capitol dome and thanked the six-term legislator for all he had helped achieve during his time in the Maine State House. Fisher is retiring after 12 years, 10 of them spent on the Transportation Committee where he was a strong supporter of developing and maintaining Maine’s transportation infrastructure. He served as house co-chair of the committee for two of those years.

Before the meeting adjourned, a drawing was held for the 50-50 raffle to raise money for the MBTA’s Infrastructure Development Fund. Alan Jones of Fundy Contractors was the lucky winner.

Show as single page

Maine News | Page 5 of 7 | Guest Column: Rep. Tom Allen