By Nok-Noi Ricker
BANGOR, Maine — With wind power, solar energy and even pellet stoves, Mainers are using and developing clean energy solutions to break free from the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, people representing the Natural Resources Council of Maine said Wednesday.
The development of renewable energy and more energy-efficient programs and products is in turn creating more jobs in Maine, Dylan Voorhees, clean energy project director for the environmental group, said at a news conference at the Bangor Public Library.
“[More than] 2,500 companies in Maine are currently involved in cutting our dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.
The companies include “electricians, plumbers and heating technicians who are diversifying their work to increase energy efficiencies for their clients,” Voorhees said.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine recently compiled a survey of the state and found that 230 Maine businesses provide home energy audits and weatherization services; 427 install solar and photovoltaic systems; 1,300 provide energy efficient products and services; and more than 300 offer green architecture and engi-neering.
In the five wind power projects in Maine, 289 Maine businesses have been involved, according to the report.
Even more employment opportunities are coming with the state Legislature’s “bold goals to weatherize all Maine homes and half of Maine businesses by 2030,” Voorhees said.
Voorhees said a new climate change bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is designed to create jobs through clean energy incentives, which, if passed, would be “a major boost for Maine’s clean energy companies.”
A wind power student at Northern Maine Community College and employees from businesses involved in wind power development, renewable heating systems, green building and home weatherization services, also spoke during the press conference.
“Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation,” Matt Damon of Penobscot Home Performance said. His company evaluates homes for energy efficiency and helps to correct problems found.
“Our homes average a decrease of 25 to 70 percent in fuel consumption, which means more money in Maine families’s pockets and more money in the local economy,” he said. “It’s satisfying to know that I am helping. We are supporting a future that is not based on oil dependence.”
Lee Laundry of ReVision Energy in Bangor started his career as an oil burner technician and got involved with his business after he “realized there was a whole realm of [clean energy] technologies” that are underused.
“There are viable options to heating a house without oil,” he said, adding that his company has plans to begin bulk wood pellet deliveries in the Bangor area this year.
Jen Richard, a LEED-certified designer with WBRC Architects/Engineers of Bangor, said architecture firms all over Maine are working with developers to create “green buildings” that use the sun for heat and light, have clean air exchange systems and have energy-efficient heating systems that often are less dependent on oil.
With more Maine renewable energy projects such as wind power planned, more work lies ahead, said Shane Duigan, a project manager at Stantec in Topsham.
“Wind power development has created a huge opportunity for Maine,” he said. “It brings good jobs and generates clean energy.”
Peter Cianchette, Cianbro vice president of business development, said the Pittsfield-based company has been involved in wind power, hydro and other clean energy projects all over the state and has been asked to sit on the governor’s Ocean Energy Taskforce.
Clean, green energy is “something we feel very strongly about,” Cianchette said.
With the number of clean energy projects under way or planned, “it’s a tremendous opportunity for Maine” and workers throughout the state, he said.
Jeff Copley of Brewer, an unemployed father of three teenagers, said it was while watching wind turbine pieces move across Maine that he decided to enroll in the wind power technology program at NMCC.
“I’ve become very excited about all the prospects that lie ahead,” he said.
So far, the Aroostook County program is the only one of its kind in Maine. However, new educational opportunities are being created for workers interested in learning about clean energy, Voorhees said. He added that a new training center opened in Lewiston last week and classes are planned at area community colleges and the University of Maine.