Renewable energy solutions to be forum topic

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FARMINGTON – “Renewable Energy for Western Maine” will be the focus of a public forum from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at the Olsen Student Center, University of Maine at Farmington.

Panelists will present on renewable energy options for Western Maine: dry corn, woodchips, geothermal, solar and small-scale wind generation. There will be interactive displays, questions from the audience and a free breakfast.

The event is open to the public, with no registration required. It is being sponsored by the Western Maine Legislative Caucus.

Presenters will be Bob Lawrence, University of Maine at Farmington, geothermal system warms the new UMF Education Center; Mike Wiltse, biofuel project fuels buses at Sugarloaf Ski Resort; Quenten Clark and Bussie York, corn furnace heats SAD 58 school buildings; and Tom Saviello, update on proposed state legislation to encourage renewable energy projects in public buildings, including schools.

Clark is SAD 58 superintendent. He worked for Great Northern Paper Co. for 15 years as system operator of the power system. It involved working to manage six hydroelectric dams, two oil-fired steam plants, a biomass boiler and cogeneration in two large mills. When he left to become a teacher, Clark became involved in education as a school board member, principal and superintendent for 25 years, the last 11 as superintendent for SAD 58.

Last year SAD 58 became involved in the PPCOM bankruptcy, and Clark decided that they needed to find an alternative to fuel oil. That was the catalyst for SAD 58 to purchase a corn furnace from Bussie York and operate it to heat the school district’s bus garage.

Wiltse is originally from Medway and has lived in Carrabassett Valley for five years. He worked at Sugarloaf Ski Patrol for six years. A 2000 graduate of University of Maine at Orono with a degree in forestry, Wiltse became interested in biodiesel through a friend. Together with a third friend, he came up with the idea of putting a biodiesel processor at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassett Valley and made it happen.

Today, the project takes waste vegetable oil from restaurants at the resort and processes it into biodiesel, which powers several buses and may help heat the Grand Summit Hotel soon.

For more information about the forum, call Western Mountains Alliance at 778-3885.

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