Credit: ReVision Energy

YORK, Maine — There was, literally, energy to spare at the York Beach fire station Saturday afternoon, as a crowd of more than 50 residents and well-wishers from throughout the region came there to learn about how the department reduced its energy bill from $325 to less than $1.52 in a year.

And in the process, they learned that the building has become a model of efficiency and a harbinger for future town building projects.

The station built in 1917 now has a 28,000-kilowatt solar panel array on its roof, new insulation in the walls and roof, all new light-emitting diode, or LED, lights throughout the building, and a heat pump that is providing cooling and heat to the second floor.

“They say timing is everything. Well, the timing was perfect,” Fire Chief Dave Bridges said, because the energy committee approached the chief just as the department was getting ready to renovate the second floor room used as a bingo parlor. “It just all came together. Would I have done it on my own? No. But I commend the committee for approaching us. The summer people commented tremendously on the solar panels.”

York Energy Steering Committee chair Rozanna Patane said the beauty of the collaboration is that “now we can say we can retain the historic function of a 100 year old building while at the same time turning it into a high-performing energy system.”

The savings from the solar array has been “very good, but more importantly we have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The energy saved here is equivalent to taking 50 cars off the road or planting 200 acres of forest,” she said to much applause.

Selectman Torbert Macdonald called himself an “old solar warrior” who was a state planner in Augusta when Jimmy Carter was president and introduced energy efficiency measures. “He was a much maligned enemy of big oil. For 35 years we’ve been listening to the lies of big oil saying what we really care about is cheap energy.” The fire station project should remind everyone that there are those “who care about the planet,” he said

Bridges said the project was such a success, “hopefully this is just the beginning and there will be other departments that will take on the challenge.”

Before people toured the station, the program concluded with three middle school students singing the Ben Harper song “With My Own Two Hands.” With Otto Reid accompanying singers Katori Palavos and Katie Brower on guitar, the youngsters’ choice of song seemed a prophetic end:

I can change the world

with my own two hands

Make it a better place

with my own two hands.

I can make peace on Earth

with my own two hands

And I can clean up the Earth

with my own two hands.

To watch the electricity being used at the York Village Fire Department in real time, visit