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February 16, 2015

At Mt. Abram, King Surveys Renewable Energy Upgrades, Pledges to Reintroduce Bill Promoting Clean, Affordable, Home-Grown Energy

GREENWOOD, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, visited Mt. Abram Ski Resort where he surveyed the ski area’s cutting-edge renewable energy upgrades and announced his intention to reintroduce bipartisan legislation, the bipartisan Biomass Thermal Utilization Act, which would provide tax incentives to upgrade to clean, affordable biomass wood-pellet boilers.

“From our downeast coastal waters to right here in Greenwood, people in Maine are already experiencing the worrisome impacts of climate change. It’s a serious and substantial issue that threatens peoples’ livelihoods, local industries, and the very health of our state’s economy,” said Senator King, a member of the Senate Climate Action Task Force. “Fortunately, Mt. Abram is leading the way by demonstrating that investing in clean and renewable energy technologies not only makes sense for our environment, but also makes sense for business. I will continue to advocate for policies, like the BTU Act, that encourage green energy development, reduce carbon emissions, and lower energy bills for people across the state.”

“Obviously we’re having a great winter so far and that’s great news for our business, our community, and the families coming here to ski,” said Mt. Abram owner Matt Hancock. “But we’re fully aware of the threat of climate change to our winters, so we’re pleased to play our part to help ensure families can continue to ski here for a generation to come.”

In an effort to be more sustainable and reduce business costs, Mt. Abram, with the support of federal and state funding, invested heavily in renewable and energy efficiency upgrades. Led by resort owner Matt Hancock and General Manager Dave Scanlan, and accompanied by Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, state legislators, and other local officials, Senator King surveyed those upgrades, which include a recently-installed array of solar-electric panels, energy efficient snow guns, a wood-pellet fired boiler system, and other renewable energy upgrades.

“It’s amazing what happens when our state and federal governments play a supportive role in helping businesses invest in clean energy,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for NRCM. “Clean energy solutions like the solar, biomass and efficiency projects at Mt. Abram show the benefits of a proactive approach to climate change. We commend Senator King for his support of RGGI and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and for his ongoing efforts to help Maine reap the benefits of our rich renewable energy resources.”

Supported by a $235,000 Rural Energy Assistance Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mt. Abram recently installed an array of 803 solar-electric panels – the second largest solar project at a ski area in North America. The electricity generated from the solar panels offsets approximately 70 percent of the ski area’s annual electricity consumption, greatly reducing oil consumption and drastically cutting carbon emissions. In addition, the solar panels help to power two electric vehicle charging stations at the ski area.

Mt. Abram has also installed two fully semi-automatic MESys AutoPellet wood-pellet fired boilers that, together, heat the ski area’s base lodge. The boilers were manufactured in Bethel and the pellets it uses are sourced from Geneva Wood Fuels in Strong, Maine. According to industry advocates, thermal biomass systems reduce heating bills by an average of 40 percent. With respect to wood pellet boilers, pellets cost roughly the equivalent of $1.70 to $2.00 per gallon of heating fuel. Additionally, nearly every cent of biomass heating investments is returned to the local economy whereas 80 percent of every heating oil dollar is sent out of the state. In New York State and New England, it has been estimated that for every 100,000 tons of pellets manufactured, 342 direct jobs are created.

However, under current law, thermal biomass systems do not qualify for investment tax credits for capital costs incurred in residential and commercial installations unlike a host of other renewable energy technologies. The Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2015, which Senator King announced that he plans to reintroduce in the coming weeks, would achieve parity between biomass systems and those other renewable systems in the U.S. tax code and encourage people to upgrade away from oil boilers to efficient wood-pellet boilers, as Mt. Abram has done.

Specifically the legislation would:

  • Underscore that heat from biomass is an underutilized energy source in the United States
  • Add biomass fuel property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the residential renewable energy investment tax credit. To qualify, the biomass fuel property must operate at a thermal efficiency rate of at least 75 percent and be used to either heat space within the dwelling or heat water
  • Add open-loop biomass heating property to the list of existing technologies that qualify for the commercial renewable energy investment tax credit in the federal tax code. Qualifying biomass heating property must operate at thermal output efficiencies of at least 65 percent and be used to generate heat, hot water, steam, or industrial process heat. The credit would be two tiered: for technologies that operate at thermal output efficiencies between 65 and 80 percent, the investment tax credit is limited to 15 percent of installed capital cost. Technologies operating at thermal output efficiencies greater than 80 percent would be eligible for the full 30 percent investment tax credit. 

According to recent research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, 2014 was the warmest year on record. In fact, the last decade was recorded as the hottest on record. In addition the average ski season in the Northeast is projected to be less than 100 days by 2039 with the probability of opening before Christmas falling below 75 percent.


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