BUCKFIELD — Gerard Gagnon and his friend, Richard Munson, were traveling west to Vermont to install Canadian-made cellulose insulation in a home when they wondered where their next fiber would come from.

That conversation, which took place about three years ago, led to a new idea for producing cellulose that could insulate the estimated 90 percent of Maine homes that are either underinsulated or uninsulated.

The idea is now progressing through the patent process, and plans for setting up a manufacturing facility are well on the way. Gagnon, a Buckfield native and owner of Ace Insulation, won’t reveal what that process is because of the patent process.

But the idea, once developed, will produce an environmentally friendly paper-type product for about the same cost as the traditional fiberglass insulation, or the currently available cellulose insulation, which must be imported from Canada or Massachusetts, he said.

The problem, Gagnon said, is that there isn’t enough fiber from newspapers available. The new manufacturing process will use other materials.

“The new administration is anxious to solve weatherization problems,” Gagnon said.

Once the idea was hatched, Gagnon gathered four investors who, so far, have sunk about $200,000 into the enterprise.

One of them, Michael Kelly, a strategic planner who lives in Bath, said the new company, known as Green Comfort Safe Inc., will produce cellulose fiber for a fraction of the energy required to produce fiberglass.

“We plan to reopen a closed paper mill or use part of an operating mill that isn’t running at full capacity to begin producing ecological-friendly, energy efficient, natural insulation,” he said.

The investors are working together with the research department of the University of Maine, the state Department of Economic and Community Development, and Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.

Besides Gagnon, Kelly, and Munson — of South Bristol, who works in cellulose insulation — the other investors are Dan Thompson, of South Bristol, an engineer, and Robert Hupper, of Madison, who works in the pulp and paper industry.

Kelly said one source of fiber for cellulose is pulp, but there are alternative materials.

“We’ve figured it out, and we have a new process,” Kelly said.

If all goes as planned, research should be completed well before June. The investors are searching for federal and state funds to launch the enterprise, estimated at about $4 million, Kelly said. And, they are waiting to hear whether they have received a Maine Technical Institute grant of $100,000 that would pay for the research.

Tentative plans are to open a cellulose manufacturing facility by this time next year that would employ 15 to 18 people per shift.

Although the company will remain a Maine-based enterprise, Kelly said, it will go national.

The proposed new cellulose fiber used in insulation will not only be warmer, but also quieter. Besides being used for home insulation, Gagnon said it can be used for hydroseeding mulch and for acoustical insulation.

“This is about jobs in Maine, a product of Maine,” said Gagnon, who added that the manufacturing facility will likely be in the western part of the state. “We want to do business in Maine and keep it in Maine.”

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Michael Kelly and Gerard Gagnon, two of the five owners of a new cellulose production company known as Green Comfort Safe, Inc., hold handfuls of imported cellulose fiber used for insulation. The company plans to use a soon-to-be-patented manufacturing process to make cellulose. 

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