|Beginning in 2003 Maine was among the first states in the nation to use biofuels for heating state offices and buildings – even the Governor’s mansion. Several well-known Maine businesses have adopted their use, and at least two Maine manufacturers are working to make biofuels more available to consumers. From college campuses and nonprofit agencies to major businesses and governments, there is a growing interest in developing biofuels, helping to move away from dependence on petroleum-based fuels.
Several Maine manufacturers are currently using waste vegetable oils collected from restaurants to produce biodiesel. Opportunities to produce and process oil crops usable for biodiesel are being explored in Unity, Maine. About 5,000 acres of canola crop, a rotation crop for potatoes, is grown in the northern Aroostook County.
State government has led by example and by establishing incentives. To lead by example, use of biodiesel in state government buildings has grown since 2003 when the program began. In 2006, use reached 23 percent of the total heating fuel consumption (approximately 250,000 gallons at 5 percent blend). Local governments are also using biodiesel for both heating and transportation.
Government incentives are helping to promote biofuels in Maine. Beginning in 2004, the Maine State Energy Program and the U.S. Department of Energy provided a grant to build market demand for biodiesel among potential large diesel users in Maine. State government has enacted a production tax credit for producers of biofuels, and an excise tax reduction for consumers of motor fuels containing at least two percent biodiesel. Maine’s legislature put forward a proposed bill (LD 1159) in 2007 to encourage increased use of biofuels in Maine. The bill was signed by the Governor in June, and will establish a pilot program for dispensation of biofuel that is at least 85 percent ethanol.
Well-known Maine businesses have included biofuel in their energy use mix. Oakhurst Dairy, L.L. Bean, Poland Spring Bottling, Hannaford, Safe Handling, and Lamey Wellehan are among those involved.
In November 2006, Governor John Baldacci joined Oakhurst Dairy to herald the company’s move to cleaner-burning biodiesel for 90 percent of their fleet (130 delivery trucks). Striving for carbon reductions, and as part of their early commitment to the Governor’s Carbon Challenge initiated in 2004, Oakhurst reportedly became one of the largest private biodiesel fleets in New England.
Famous Maine outdoor products company, L.L. Bean, has long been committed to environmental stewardship. In 2003, L.L. Bean converted its heavy truck fleet to biodiesel fuel. The fleet of buses supporting their Outdoor Discovery Schools is fueled with biodiesel. The company’s goal is to increase alternative fuel use in their entire company fleet. They also use biofuel propane/gasoline in their company pickup trucks.
In June 2007, Poland Spring Bottling Company announced their move to using biofuels. A member of the Governor’s Carbon Challenge and Maine’s STEP-UP program, Poland Spring began using biofuels in 52 tanker trucks and 12 contracted trucks. This fuel was provided by local Maine-based energy suppliers, C.N. Brown and Lampron Energy. The Bottling Company is also expected to support the general availability of biofuel to nearby communities. Poland Spring plans to move towards the use of B-20 in the summer and B-5 in the winter, and further reduce the tanker fleet’s carbon emissions. Other local companies are transitioning to biodiesel with their help, including Dyer Straights Transportation (12 tractors), Hartt Transportation (25 tractors), and Safe Handling (75 tractors).
Safe Handling of Auburn, Maine is a manufacturer and distributor of raw materials primarily for customers in the pulp and paper industry and has joined the Governor’s Carbon Challenge. Along with their company growth, they intend to evaluate construction of a forest products bio-refinery.
Hannaford Brothers Company, the Maine-based grocer with 158 stores in the northeast region has been using B-20 biodiesel since May 2005. With a fleet of 100 tractors and 380 trailers, their biofuels program is part of their company-wide effort to reduce fuel use and associated carbon emissions. Hannaford’s Camden store was heated using biodiesel last winter.
The diverse list of biofuel users also includes Maine small businesses, college campuses, school districts and municipalities, and nonprofit organizations and are too numerous to list individually. Examples include Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin colleges; the University of Southern Maine; Maine Audubon; Cape Elizabeth; Falmouth; and the Chewonki Foundation. An early proponent of biodiesel, the Chewonki Foundation makes their own biodiesel, for both transportation and supplemental heating fuel consumption, and for instructional purposes to help build market demand.
Manufacturing of biofuel in Maine is developing (in addition to growing retail availability). Green Bean Biofuel of Vassalboro, Maine produces biodiesel from restaurant feedstock in Maine and New Hampshire. Production is currently 6-8,000 gallons per week with plans to increase next year to 900,000 gallons annually. Customers include local business transportation fleets and heating fuel for school campuses.
Maine-Biofuel, a group of Maine entrepreneurs, is planning biodiesel production using southern Maine restaurant feedstock with capacity to generate a million gallons per year at their Portland manufacturing facility. They anticipate production beginning in August 2007. They have also successfully manufactured B-20 biodiesel at Sugarloaf USA, where onsite production of B-20 was piloted and used in shuttle buses at the popular recreation area. Plans exist for expanded future use at Sugarloaf and possibly other facilities.
Earlier this year and on a larger scale, Dirigo Biofuels revealed plans to construct a 30-million gallon per year plant in Bucksport, Maine with hopes to have production in place by the end of the year. After experience in the Midwest, the company found the next logical place was the home heating market in the Northeast.