WILTON — A tradition of water power may be revived at the Bass-Wilson building downtown, where a grant will help to determine whether a modern hydro turbine would be cost-effective.

“I’d like to bring the building back 100 years,” Bass-Wilton Properties LLC owner Randy Cousineau said.

Back then, the building used a water wheel to draw its power from the waterway that runs beneath it to nearby Wilson Pond. Cousineau said that the wheel is still in the building’s cellar.

On June 25, Bass-Wilton was awarded a $2,375 grant from the Rural Energy of America Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If all goes well, the 48,000-square-foot office building will once again draw power from the water, this time by restoring an existing hydro turbine and penstock from the 1930s, according to Virginia Manuel, the department’s rural development state director.

The power could be used to offset or eliminate existing heating and electricity costs.

Cousineau speculated that a generator would probably provide more electricity than the building needed in spring, which would allow him to sell the power back to Central Maine Power. In the drier autumn months, he might need to buy it back.

“I hate to feed the oil well,” Cousineau said. “I just think it’s the right thing to do, to use natural power in the U.S.”

The grant, which Cousineau said he was required to match with approximately $7,500 of his own money, will measure the cost effectiveness of the potential power generation.

If the project makes sense, Cousineau said he would like to have it in place by the upcoming spring thaw.

Hydroelectric power is a growing sector in the state, and had topped 22 percent of all electricity generated in Maine by 2006, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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