The Island Institute in Rockland and the College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar Harbor are teaming up in an effort they hope will make Maine islands more livable and provide models for island communities elsewhere in the world. The Fund for Maine Islands will address four areas of critical concern for Gulf of Maine islanders: agriculture and food; energy; education; and adaptation to climate change.

The Fund will be officially announced in a private ceremony in appreciation of philanthropist Polly Guth on Thursday, August 14, with journalist Bill Moyers in attendance. Guth met the $2 million challenge grant from the Partridge Foundation to establish the Fund.

With joint programming and coordinated fundraising, the academic program will strive to develop solutions that can be implemented on Maine islands by residents and COA students.

One of the first projects will bring together College of the Atlantic faculty and students, five island residents, and Island Institute staff in a year-long course on energy leadership. This fall, the course participants will attend the Samsø Energy Academy in Denmark to study how the island of Samsø has reduced its energy costs and energy use so that it now emits less carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbs. Attendees will study how the Samsø approach might be adapted to Maine islands, where residents pay some of the highest energy rates in the United States. Participants will learn from residents of the farming and tourist community how the island increased energy efficiency through wind and solar power production, and biomass heating. They will also develop ways to measure the effectiveness of island energy projects, learn how to share that knowledge, and how to fund their efforts.