PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For the second consecutive year, the current status and future development of alternative energy in Maine takes center stage at a forum hosted by students at Northern Maine Community College. “FTN 2.0 Biomass and Beyond” will take place on the NMCC campus Wednesday, March 7.
The daylong conference will bring together stakeholders and those interested in all forms of alternative energy from across the state. It will focus on developments since a similar event held a year ago at NMCC and, as the title suggests, look at the emerging biomass energy industry that has advanced significantly over the past two years, particularly in northern Maine.
Several key leaders within the alternative energy sector will present at the event. They include Dr. William Strauss, president and founder of FutureMetrics, LLC and director of Maine Energy Systems; and Gerard Chasse, president and chief operating officer of Bangor Hydro Electric Co.
Dr. William Strauss, who will serve as keynote speaker at the conference, leads a consultancy that has become recognized as the leading domestic expert in the economics of the production and use of biomass fuels. FutureMetrics is also recognized for its expertise in quantifying the financial feasibility of renewable energy projects and the economic impacts of those projects in areas such as jobs, growth and tax revenues.
Strauss also serves as managing partner of FutureEnergy Partners, LLC, which specializes in enabling inventors of cutting-edge technology in the energy sector to move from idea to commercial product. He is the chief economist for the Biomass Thermal Energy Council in Washington, D.C. and the chief economist for the Maine Pellet Fuels Association. Strauss also served as the chief economist on the Maine Governor’s Wood-to-Energy Task force in 2008-09.
Strauss will share his findings on the economic impact and viability of biomass energy production, with special focus on Maine.
There are currently over a dozen biomass boilers in operation, planned or under construction within Aroostook County, including at NMCC, which will provide more than $20 million directly into the region’s economy. According to the Maine Department of Conservation’s Maine Forest Service, 78 percent of every dollar spent on oil leaves the state, while 100 percent of every dollar spent on biomass remains.
Gerard Chasse, who leads Bangor Hydro, which is owned by Emera Inc., the Halifax-based energy services company that acquired Maine Public Service Co., will lead the day’s discussion with an update on the project that would connect the MPS system to the rest of the Maine and New England electric grid. The lack of that “connector” was identified by participants in last year’s Forum as the key roadblock to the development of substantial alternative energy generation in northern Maine.
Chasse will also speak on the changing energy landscape in Maine and his company’s efforts to develop various forms of alternative energy. Operating as sister utilities, Bangor Hydro and MPS serve more than 150,000 customers in northern and eastern Maine.
The afternoon session will feature a panel discussion with four advocates of alternative energy: Todd J. Griset, an attorney with the PretiFlaherty law firm’s energy and telecommunications group based in Portland; Andrew Plant with the UM Cooperative Extension, who has been researching liquid and solid biofuel for farmers; Thomas Wood, senior planner for the Maine Forest Service, who is responsible for grants for biomass projects awarded in the state; and Robert Dorsey, president and chief executive officer for Aroostook Partnership for Progress, which leads the Mobilize Northern Maine initiative. They will participate in an interactive dialogue with conference attendees.
The March 7 forum is being coordinated by a team of students under the guidance of Focus the Nation (FTN), the country’s leading clean energy youth empowerment organization. FTN again this year selected NMCC as a national partner to raise awareness and move the country toward clean energy solutions. NMCC joins Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the only two schools in New England to carry the FTN banner in 2012.
Five student leaders on the NMCC campus are coordinating the project, engaging with FTN staff based in Portland, Ore. The organizers are Gene Martin of Mapleton, a senior in NMCC’s business administration program; Nathan Woods of Rumford, a senior electrical construction and maintenance student; Jessica Ouellette of Caribou, a senior in the business administration program; Jeff Kiser of Plaster Rock, N.B., a freshman in the emergency medical services program; and Natalie St. Pierre of Presque Isle, a graduate student taking courses through Husson University’s division of extended learning on the NMCC campus.
Last March, after being selected by FTN as their only partner college in the northeast, NMCC hosted one of 22 nationwide clean energy forums on its campus. The student-organized, daylong session called the “Maine Event” drew more than 100 participants from across the state.
“Since our Clean Energy Forum last March there has been significant development in the alternative energy industry in Aroostook County, especially in the area of biomass,” said St. Pierre. “As a result, this year’s forum will be centered more on sustainability and how biomass and other alternative energy can both support local industry growth while reducing dependence on foreign oil.”
For more information on “FTN 2.0 Biomass and Beyond” or to register, visit the Focus the Nation website at www.focusthenation.org and click on the icon by the state of Maine. Interested individuals can also learn more or register by calling the NMCC Development and College Relations Office at NMCC at 768-2810.