Building a new powerhouse

Posted:  Tuesday, August 28, 2018 - 1:00pm
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About this blog:

  • Frank Barnako is a seasonal resident of Wiscasset at Clarks Point on the Sheepscot River.   His career in journalism included on air and news director positions with CBS and NBC Radio and TV stations.  He was a pioneer in the Internet, helping to create and co-founding MarketWatch.com where he developed a 200-station radio network and wrote daily columns focused on the stock market, business news, and technology. Barnako describes himself as “an aspiring photographer,” whose work can be seen at frankbarnako.com<http://frankbarnako.com>. He is a member of the town’s Investment Advisory Committee.

Ed Polewarczyk, former Selectman and space shuttle engineer, is trying to put Wiscasset on the map for more than lobster rolls and antique stores.

Working out of a house in the weeds along the Sheepscot River, he is the Executive Program Director at Peregrine Turbine Technologies. The company is developing a way to use anything from fuel oil to coal to wood chips to generate electricity more efficiently than anything out there now.

I got to know Polewarczyk, (I think of him as “Ed P”.) a few years ago when he was chairman of the Board of Selectmen. He helped drive a months-long effort to create an Investment Advisory Committee.  The Town’s Reserve and Endowment Funds had become a convenient cookie jar for whatever “The Town’s gotta have” came along. Some professional management was critical. 

After Ed served two terms on the Select Board, he joined Peregrine. Its headquarters are on the site of the former Mason Station power plant.  A week ago, Ed walked me through Peregrine’s offices.  I was introduced to half a dozen young guys, several of whom were just out of college with their mechanical engineering degrees.  Understanding their spreadsheets and white boards on the walls was far beyond my skill set. 

These engineers and analysts have something in common with taxi drivers in Havana, and I mean that as a big compliment.  If they need a part to keep a 60-year-old Buick running, they have to make it themselves.  No NAPA store nearby. The parts, even the tools, may not have been invented yet.  They have to make them. “Learning on the job” doesn’t begin to describe what they are doing. 

That's the exciting - and important - thing about Peregrine.  It’s all new. Peregrine’s founder, Dave Stapp, wants the Town to benefit and prosper with this venture.  He works daily to raise funds and he dreams of building a manufacturing facility on the grounds.  That would mean jobs and payroll and taxes.  It would also mean Wiscasset hosting a 21st century opportunity built over the remains of a 19th century coal-fired power plant.

Got a comment? E-mail me, Wiscasset@barnako.com.