In the Portland Press Herald piece, “For 2015, five hopes for a brave new Maine,” ReVision Energy Phil Coupe cites renewable energy as an opportunity to transform the landscape of Maine’s economy – literally:
When tourists visit Portland – whether by car, boat or plane – one of the first things they see on their way into the city is the large collection of oil tanks in South Portland.
Phil Coupe wants to change that. Why not transform those giant tanks into aquaculture facilities, or use them for wood pellet storage?
“My big idea for 2015 is that we emphasize the huge potential of renewable energy to accelerate our tourism economy,” he said.
Coupe is co-founder of ReVision Energy, the largest solar installer in Maine, and is on the board of the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine. His idea would make Maine’s renewable resources much more visible to tourists and therefore make Maine a more attractive place to visit.
“After the long painful slide in our paper and pulp industry, tourism has now become Maine’s biggest economic driver,” Coupe said. “The fact that Maine has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in New England and the highest oil consumption in New England, those two realities are really in conflict with the idea of a tourism economy based on a pristine natural environment. You’ve got a problem there. There’s a pretty big disconnect.”
Many of Coupe’s notions fall more into the category of hopes and dreams, rather than changes that might actually happen in a year’s time, but they do put intriguing ideas on the table. Coupe said, for example, he would turn the new Thompson’s Point development into “a shining jewel of sustainability” with New England’s first net-zero entertainment facility – a building that uses only renewable energy created on site.
And those oil tanks in South Portland? As they become underutilized, turning them into wood pellet storage facilities would make it easier to supply wood pellet boilers in southern Maine, as that industry lacks the infrastructure to deliver its fuel. Maine has four pellet mills and is a net exporter of wood pellets, Coupe said.
“Maine has 440,000 oil boilers, many of which we could convert to fully automated pellet boilers,” he said. “I’m not talking about pellet stoves, I’m talking about boilers that live in the basement. In western Europe, it’s much more common to see a pellet fuel delivery truck going down the street than an oil truck, and that’s part of the clean energy future we envision for Maine.”
Coupe would also cover the roof of Ocean Gateway in solar panels.
“It’s the absolute perfect roof,” he said. “It faces directly south. It’s a standing seam metal roof, which is the very best kind for solar panels because you can attach the panels without penetrating the roof by clamping to the seams. So it would be this wonderful symbol of renewable energy” as cruise ships filled with tourists dock nearby.