The Camden and Rockland Division of Aqua Maine will receive a $41,250 grant from Efficiency Maine to help offset the total cost of a solar thermal system being constructed as part of the new membrane filtration facility at Mirror Lake.

The Energy Programs Division (known as Efficiency Maine) of the Maine Public Utilities Commission is administering approximately $2 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to support energy efficient projects or renewable energy systems for commercial facilities across the state. Aqua Maine’s award is one of 19 grants recently announced for businesses, schools and communities across Maine.

The new $7.2 million membrane filtration facility, required under new EPA regulations, is under construction at Mirror Lake in Rockport. The microfiltration membranes used in the daily operation of the new facility, expected to be online in August 2010, must be periodically cleaned with heated water.

“The original design of the facility included a large electric heater to warm water for the membrane cleaning process,” said Rick Knowlton, vice president of operations for Aqua Maine, in a news release. “But it is a perfect application for a solar thermal system that would supplement or reduce the use of the electric heater. We will need almost 2,000 gallons of warm water every day, and this will be one of the larger solar thermal systems installed in Maine.”

The total capital cost of the solar thermal heating system is $165,000 and that cost will now be reduced by $41,250 through the Efficiency Maine grant.

“The grant improves our payback period from 11 years to eight years,” Knowlton said. “Over the 20-year life of the equipment, we expect to save more than $300,000 in electricity costs at current rates. The financial benefits of the grant and the solar thermal system will be passed on to our Camden and Rockland Division customers.”

The Camden and Rockland water system serves 7,700 customers in Rockland, Camden, Rockport, Thomaston, Owls Head, Warren and Union, and is one of 20 Maine water systems owned or operated by Aqua Maine.