GreenME biomass project awarded $1.9 million grant

By Matt Soberg | September 27, 2011

The Northern Maine Development Commission was awarded a $1.9 million grant to replace or supplement heating oil furnaces with wood biomass units in businesses and homes.

NMDE, a community and county membership organization, was awarded the grant as part of the Job and Innovation Accelerator Challenge program, which is a multi-agency competition involving the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Small Business Administration and Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.   

The NMDC’s project, called GreenME, serves northeastern Maine including Aroostook and Washington counties. The plan is to develop a Renewable Energy Industry Cluster consisting of representatives from approximately 55 businesses that employ more than 500 people from the region. “The project objective is to transition 9,000 residential units and 20 commercial facilities to primary or supplemental wood biomass fuel in four years,” according to the EDA. “This will result in 260 direct industry cluster jobs and 196 indirect and induced jobs in the regional economy.”

Each governmental agency involved will fund various portions of the GreenME project. The EDA funds will be used to develop a grass pellet boiler for small commercial and residential heating purposes, in addition to providing strategic planning and research into feasibility, feedstocks and export markets.   ETA funds will be used for training of engineers, biologists and managers.  

The NMDC will oversee activity development while business assistance and technical training will be provided through the SBA funds.

The JAIC was launched in May to support the advancement of 20 high-growth industry clusters, and the winners were announced on Sept. 22, according to the EDA. The program includes a total of $37 million in awarded funds with investments from the three federal agencies to promote development in areas including clean technology in rural areas. The EDA estimates the project will create 4,800 jobs, retain 2,400 jobs and train 4,000 workers for careers in high-growth sectors, generate $69 million in new private investment and start 339 new businesses.