Learning to think green
MBTA Aroostook Meeting looks at sustainability and education in The County
Learn by example. That was the overriding message leaders at the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) and Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) shared with their audience at the annual Aroostook County Meeting of the Maine Better Transportation Association August 4 in Presque Isle.
Specifically, the evening’s guest speakers discussed how sustainable energy can benefit Aroostook County’s economy and way of life. Don Zillman, president of the UMPI, Barry Ingraham, director of NMCC’s physical plant and Jason Parent, NMCC’s director of development and college relations, were the guest speakers at the Northeastland Hotel.
More than 70 MBTA members and friends gathered to hear how both schools have been recognized regionally and nationally for their efforts to integrate alternative energy into the curriculum, train a workforce that is ready for future energy jobs and build a green economy. Several local leaders and legislators were in attendance, including Transportation Committee members Representatives Alex Willette (R-Mapleton), Peter Edgecomb (R-Caribou) and Joyce Fitzpatrick (R-Houlton); Walt Elish of Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, Denis Berube of the Northern Maine Development Commission, Theresa Fowler of the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, Philip Bosse from U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ Aroostook office and the Honorable Pat Sutherland. (Sutherland is a former state legislator and development director for Northern Maine Community College and has worked with the MBTA to administer the Paris W. Snow Scholarships, awarded annually to students from The County pursuing transportation-related studies.)
UMPI has been in the forefront of sustainable energy initiatives in the region, and UMPI President Zillman spoke about his administration’s ‘efforts to encourage greener thinking among staff and students. In 2009, UMPI became the first Maine university – and one of the first in New England – to erect a mid-sized wind turbine to generate power. The project was financed by UMPI’s internal savings and a $50,000 grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Campus officials said they anticipated the turbine would produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. When fully operational, the turbine is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
UMPI also recently won a 2011 Climate Leadership Award for its sustainability measures from Second Nature, a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainability in education.
Ingraham and Parent discussed initiatives at NMCC that have garnered national acclaim. In 2008, NMCC launched its wind power technology program, which was the first of its kind in New England. Students in the program learn to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators. The program quickly became popular and helped to boost enrollment at the college.
During commencement exercises at NMCC in May, the first 14 wind power technology graduates received associate degrees. The program also has attracted the attention of donors, and in April, NMCC officially dedicated the Northern Maine Center for Excellence in Alternative Energy Training and Education.
The annual August meeting in Presque Isle is a favorite gathering for many MBTA members and MBTA friends. As tradition dictates, the event ended with the announcement of the 50/50 raffle winner: Steve Perry of Sargent Corp. Perry won $88, and the remaining $88 collected for the raffle went to the MBTA Educational Foundation for transportation scholarships.
FMI: Maine Better Transportation hosts regional forums on issues affecting transportation throughout the year.