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Mobilize Maine sees "green" as a way to grow jobs
PRESQUE ISLE — Members of Mobilize Maine’s Renewable Energy Cluster Team met recently to discuss and consider adoption of proposed visions and goals, as well as identify niche markets.
ViTAL Economy Alliance’s Jim Haguewood, of ONE Group, LLC — a consulting firm based in Washington State that specializes in economic development — led the discussion, outlining ways the local economy could grow, using resources that are already available.
“Unique renewable energy assets/resources that are in the region’s control can be developed and connected, which will result in increased wealth and job creation,” said Haguewood, noting three areas in particular: wind, biomass and excess energy.
Haguewood noted Aroostook County’s status as the leader in Maine’s effort to harness wind energy, citing the development of the Mars Hill wind farm, the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s construction of a wind turbine to help reduce campus energy expenses and Northern Maine Community College’s recent creation of a wind technology program that will teach students a much-needed skill in today’s growing ‘green’ technology world.
He said Aroostook County was ideal for biomass facilities — such as facilities like Boralex, with plants in Ashland and Fort Fairfield, that convert wood byproducts to energy — given the agricultural nature of the region, with farmland and forests stretching for miles.
Haguewood also noted the importance of working with the businesses that operate the wind farms and biomass facilities to create ways to use the excess energy.
“The Boralex facility in Ashland is looking to connect with neighboring mills, supplying those mills with excess energy from the biomass plant,” Haguewood said, noting the need for an improved transmission line capable of handling the extra power wind farms could generate.
“The (cluster’s) goal was to see where the County would be in 2015. To do that, we needed to focus on a couple of industries — biomass and wind,” said Haguewood.
Haguewood said this wasn’t ‘his’ program but rather ‘our’ program.
“We (Maine, and Aroostook County in particular) need to grow and prosper. We have an out-migration problem and we want to turn that around. By engaging people in biomass and wind, we hope to do that,” said Haguewood.
In addition to commercial use of such things as biomass heating systems, Haguewood said industries such as Northeast Pellets in Ashland that manufactures wood pellets, as well as facilities that produce grass pellets and other ‘green’ products for use to heat homes and businesses were some of the many options available that can enhance the local economy and help reduce the need for fossil fuel.
“It’s about creating market demand. Take wood pellets; we need to create a demand for the product, both residential and commercial use,” Haguewood said.
He said while there is some cost involved in switching out fuel furnaces for pellet units, the change would improve the local economy, with a local product being produced, using local people to do the work.
“Producing your own fuel enables you to grow additional job opportunities,” he said.
Mike Eisensmith, economic development director for the Northern Maine Development Commission, said much depended on what resources were at an individual’s control to create wealth in the region.
“(We need to determine) what offers the greatest opportunity for us to create wealth and more jobs. One of our goals is to increase population,” said Eisensmith.
Haguewood said northern Maine could create a sustainable renewable energy economy through innovation and utilizing alternative energy sources to capture wealth and stimulate the economy.
“We have a renewable energy economy vision that includes capturing 200 MW of wind energy by 2015, utilizing 45,000 tons of locally-sourced and -manufactured biomass for residential and commercial heating by 2015, capture 50 MW of locally-generated energy and realizing 50 jobs or more paying over $42,000 per year linked to renewable energy,” said Haguewood.
A BIOMASS ENERGY ECONOMY could create a number of jobs and help lower energy costs, according to Jim Haguewood, a representative for the ViTAL Economy Alliance. Haguewood told participants of a recent Mobilize Maine meeting at the Northeastland Hotel in Presque Isle of the benefits of a ‘green’ economy and how Aroostook County was ideal for producing renewable energy sources, including wind, wood and grass. While money spent on fuel to heat homes and businesses now goes to businesses out of state, renewable energy sources would keep that money flowing within the local economy, creating jobs and reducing energy costs.