Maine is the largest producer of renewable energy throughout New England and has been increasingly committed to the development of bioenergy, offshore wind energy, as well as ocean wind energy resources for the national market. As such, Maine has become a national leader for the development of offshore renewable energy, bringing hundreds of clean energy megawatts to not only meet the demand of the mainland but also the large number of offshore islands as well.
1) Renewable Energy Businesses in Maine. There are a number of Maine-based renewable energy businesses throughout the state. This includes Prime Electric Motors, Inc. – a manufacturer of hydro energy systems and system components, steam turbine electric generators, and wind turbines, Solaris LLC – a residential and commercial design service for solar energy and high efficiency hot water and heating systems, and Bluebird LLC – a full service energy consulting, auditing, and renewable energy design and installation company for both residential and commercial clients.
2) Efficiency Maine. Efficiency Maine was established in 2002 by the “Act to Strengthen Energy Conservation” passed by the Maine State legislature. The goals of the act were to save energy, decrease overall energy costs, and assist the environment and promote sustainable economic development throughout the state. Through the programs supervised by Efficiency Maine, the state has had lifetime economic benefits of an estimated $400 million, has saved roughly four million megawatt hours of electricity (which is enough to power all the homes in Maine for one year), and have decreased carbon dioxide emissions by two million metric tons. The energy saving programs assist in the reduction of natural gas, propane and oil utilization via energy efficient improvements along with the utilization of sources of renewable energy.
3) Maine Renewable Energy Association. The Maine Renewable Energy Association is a nonprofit organization comprised of renewable energy producers, goods and services suppliers to the producers, and those who support the renewable energy industry. The renewable energy producers manufacture electricity from sustainable sources, including solar and hydro. This association is one of the leading forces in local and state policy debate focused on the generation of renewable energy and it works to guarantee the efforts are united with all members.
4) Statewide Financial Incentives for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Homes and Businesses. In an effort to make renewable energy and energy efficient products more cost-effective for businesses and residents, the state of Maine has developed a number of financial incentives that provide the necessary assistance for this endeavor. This includes the Community Solar Lending Program from New Generation Energy, Community Based Renewable Energy Production Incentive program, Sales and Use Tax Refund for Qualified Community Wind Generators, Efficiency Maine – Small Business Low Interest Loan Program, and a number of state rebate programs through Efficiency Maine, such as Business (Non-Residential) Program, Home Energy Savings Program, and Residential Lighting Program.
5) Island Institute and Maine Ocean Renewable Energy. The Island Institute is working alongside a number of waterfront communities around the state to not only understand, but also weight the potential benefits and costs of using ocean renewable energy. The institute and its work with ocean renewable energy has the overall objective of guaranteeing that any ocean energy development in the future are designed in an effort to minimize harmful impacts and that the local communities receive benefits from the ocean renewable energy projects. Some of the objectives include guaranteeing that marine users are involved in all processes that are associated with the development of offshore wind projects and to hold public forums to get feedback from communities that may be affected in an effort to ensure the success of the offshore wind projects.
6) Funding for Renewable Energy Projects. In 2009, more than $450,000 went toward eleven Maine-based organizations for their renewable energy projects. The projects were developed by a number of institutions, including Kennebec Valley Community College, Falmouth School Department, Town of Freeport, Town of Kennebunkport, and Bryant Pond. The money received from the grant will be put towards the purchase and installation of various renewable energy equipment as proposed by the different organizations. According to Sharon Reishus the Commission Chair, “The projects will help educate the local communities about ways to take advantage of alternative energy.”
7) Offshore Renewable Energy Task Force. In partnership with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Maine has established an offshore renewable energy task force. The task force is comprised of state government officials, officials from affected federal agencies, and elected local government officials. The task force was established in an effort to facilitate the effective and efficient review of possible renewable energy projects along the outer continental shelf offshore Maine. According to John Baldacci, Governor of Maine, “This is an important next step for Maine and the nation in meeting the challenges of energy independence and security, climate change and economic development. Deep water energy development employing advanced technologies holds great promise.”
8 ) Maine Renewable Energy Incentive Program. Supported by Efficiency Maine, the Maine Renewable Energy Incentive Program offers direct cash incentives for businesses and homes looking for professional installed solar heating and wind energy systems.
9) Automaker Chevrolet to Assist in Financing Energy Efficiency Project. Popular automobile manufacturer Chevrolet, in January of 2011, made the first of several grants it will be providing to cleantech projects across the United States, to the Maine State Housing Authority. The money provided by Chevrolet will go to upgrading the insulation of 5,500 low-income homes throughout the state. Home insulation will be improved by blowing recycled content insulation into ceilings and walls, replacing attic hatches that are loose with ones that are tight-fitting, sealing chimneys, providing insulation for exposed foundations, and making heating systems more efficient.
10) Fort Fairfield Recognized for their Energy Efficiency. In Aroostook County, Fort Fairfield has taken a number of significant steps in an effort to decrease its total energy consumption and was recognized for doing so. Fort Fairfield received the Recognition Award from Efficiency Main for its continual commitment to decreasing energy costs and consumption. For example, the town replaced 174 street lights with LED high-efficiency lighting, which will save the town $19,000 per year for a minimum of 12 years.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org