by Susan Sharon
MPBN news story
GREENWOOD, Maine — Maine Sen. Angus King visited the Mt. Abram Ski Resort here on Monday, where he got a look at the operation’s cutting-edge renewable energy upgrades that have reduced its carbon footprint by 760,000 pounds so far.
The clean energy improvements include a 245-kilowatt solar project, a biomass heating system for the base lodge and a high-efficiency water pump station with a variable-speed drive that has quadrupled the resort’s snow-making ability.
“This is good for the country. It’s good for Maine,” King says. “It’s good for this community and I like it when Maine leads.”
Mt. Abram recently completed installation of the 803 solar panels, making it the second largest solar installation at a ski resort in North America. Owner Matt Hancock got help for the $700,000 project from federal and state grants, including two from Efficiency Maine, but he says Maine is behind the eight-ball when it comes to getting other small businesses to make similar investments and to boost the region’s clean energy production.
“Every time I see an article in the paper about more pipeline, more gasways and the dollars that go into that versus where we need to be in the future, I get, I just — why are we not getting this, right?” he says.
Hancock says he undertook the investment because he says no one should be more motivated to promote snowier, colder winters than the ski industry and he thinks outdoor enthusiasts feel the same way.
“I mean I just really think that if you’re a ski area or you’re selling a product to a group that cares and has a passion for the environment, that I think it will affect your bottom line in how many lift tickets you sell and how many beers you sell and how many hamburgers you sell,” he says.
Hancock expects his investments to pay off fairly quickly, in about 4 1/2 years.
Meanwhile, King, who is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has announced his intention to reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would provide tax incentives to upgrade to clean, affordable biomass wood-pellet boilers. He says there are tax credits, and have been for some years, to help homeowners and businesses with their initial capital investment in renewable technologies such as solar, small wind and geothermal but not biomass. His bill is called the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act.
“It’s a resource that the northern tier of states has and so we’re trying to elicit supporters,” King says. “I think we’ve got Susan Collins involved, Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire and we’re putting together a good team and hopefully, we’re gonna get that through.”
King says the bill would provide a tax credit for about a third of the installation cost to get boiler units mass produced and into the marketplace so the price comes down, it becomes a mature technology and won’t need the support anymore.