NORWAY – The Wastewater Department has won a $50,000 renewable energy grant for implementing the first-in-the-state, solar-powered reservoir circulator at its treatment plant.
The state Public Utilities Commission will be coming to Norway in the next few months to present the check in a public ceremony, according to Nicole Klegg, spokesman for the commission.
“I’m looking to save several thousand dollars a month in electric rates,” explained Shawn Brown, superintendent of the Norway Wastewater Department, who discovered the SolarBee system.
The system, which operates day and night on solar power, reduces energy consumption by reducing aeration/mixing equipment run time, according to information from SolarBee Inc. of Dickinson, N.D.
“It’s something I came across while doing research for alternative-aeration systems. I came on to this one,” said Brown, who went to a New Hampshire facility that has used the system for about two years. He said he felt it would work in the Norway facility. The energy savings will pay for the system in two years.
Brown also said the system should save and maintain the same quality in effluent that is currently put into the Little Androscoggin River. More than 1 million gallons of treated wastewater, which meet or exceed state and federal requirements for removal of pollution, are discharged into the river each year, according to department records.
Effluent is discharged twice a week into the river between Oct. 12 and June 15. The material from 780 users in Norway and another 20 at the north end of Oxford is held in holding tanks over the summer so the river isn’t impacted adversely, Brown said.
“We’re a seasonal plant,” he explained of the process.
Each year the Maine PUC will offer grants up to $50,000 to nonprofit organizations for the development of a project utilizing renewable resources. This year, $362,889 was awarded for 10 projects including Norway’s Wastewater Department’s SolarBee system.
This week, Gov. John Baldacci joined PUC Chairman Kurt Adams at Yarmouth High School to present its grant that will support a student-initiated project to produce electricity for the school using solar panels. It was the first ceremony for the 10 grants that range from $8,711 to a high of $50,000. Along with Norway, Downeast Salmon Federation in East Machias and the University of Maine at Presque Isle also received $50,000 grants.
The Voluntary Renewable Resource Fund was established by the Legislature in 2000 and is supported by voluntary contributions made by consumers on their electric bill.
“We issued two grants a couple of years ago, but this was our first big roll out of grants,” Klegg said. The project must have an educational component to show the community how it will benefit it.
Local officials were informed several weeks ago that their project had been selected for the $50,0000 award.
The PUC’s Adams said use of the SolarBee system to power wastewater circulators is an “innovative opportunity to demonstrate the use of solar power in Maine.” He said it can be used by 37 other systems in the state.
Town Manager David Holt, who worked with Brown on the project, said he has completed all the paperwork to submit Norway’s claim for reimbursement once the installation is paid for.