From the September 29th issue of the IRREGULAR
KINGFIELD — At Tranten’s Family Market recently, seven mechanical engineering students from the University of Maine and their Capstone advisor, Jim LaBrecque, presented Paul LePage, a candidate in the race for Governor, with engineering and statistical facts in an effort to make a case that money spent on engineering returns a superior economic advantage over money spent on small windmills.
Alexander Polk, a senior engineering student from Orono, presented startling facts in his PowerPoint presentation to candidate LePage. For example a typical $16,500 windmill, like the one at Mt. Abraham High School, produces between 200 and 500 kWh per year, a cost savings of only $30 to $80 per year.
“We can’t find a windmill with a payback less than two hundred years,” said LaBrecque. The Farmington sewerage treatment plant has a payback of 625 years he noted.
In his presentation to LePage, Polk showed that based on his calculations, one Mt. Abraham student promising to drive only 3/4 of a mile less per day would produce the same energy savings as the $16,500 windmill.
Polk explained to LePage that 500 kWh produced by a typical windmill was 376 kWhs short of the 876 kWh a 100-watt light bulb requires to run continuously for one year.
According to LeBrecque, the intent of the visit was to educate candidates about energy and engineering issues. Earlier this year, candidate Libby Mitchell visited the Tran- ten’s market as part of that endeavor. LaBrecque said that the energy savings from the hi-tech refrigeration system running Tranten’s market is equal to 1,350 of the $16,500 windmills.
At the end of the demonstration, the students felt that LePage genuinely understood their message that we cannot continue to throw money down the drain for such things like small windmills while there are real energy solutions to be harvested by real engineers.
LaBrecque said that he believes energy efficiency and conservation are complex engineering issues and that people can no longer depend on lawyers, lobbyists or legislators but rather on engineers to come up with the necessary answers.