A roundtable discussion took place when U.S. Sen. Angus King visited Biddeford last week. The discussion focused on evolving green energy options for commercial vessels. Courtesy photo

BIDDEFORD — U.S. Senator Angus King joined USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson to meet with business owners, local officials, and marine science experts at Saco Bay Marine in Biddeford last week. The boatyard’s owners, Sean Tarpey and his son Matt Tarpey, inspired the meeting with their work to transition the business to renewable energy and to champion other innovative green technologies for waterfront businesses. At the event Director Hampson recognized the boatyard for securing a $27,800 USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant.

Sen. King and Director Hampson anchored a roundtable discussion that included State Sen. Henry Ingwersen (Maine District 32), Biddeford Mayor Marty Grohman, representatives of the state’s congressional delegation, Luke’s Lobster co-founder Ben Conniff, Dr Charles Tilburg of the University of New England, and Island Institute staff.

The discussion focused on evolving green energy options for commercial vessels, especially the potential to replace diesel engines with electric engines. As the Maine commercial fleet begins to transition to electric propulsion, training a workforce to maintain the new equipment will also be critical. Roundtable participants identified these as potential areas for increased public/private partnerships. Another frequent subject was the series of winter storms that devastated the Maine coastline and fishing industry, increasing the sense of urgency.

“By transitioning to renewable energy, businesses like Saco Bay Marine can help slow the pace of climate change, which has had an outsized impact on the working waterfront,” said Hampson. “We can look to our past for the inspiration needed to get this job done. Maine can help lead the maritime industry in adopting ‘blue technology.’ Today Senator King and I had a chance to meet with businesses, state and local leaders, policy makers, and industry stakeholders. It’s truly an exciting time for one of our critical heritage industries, with so much innovation happening right here at home being supported by the Inflation Reduction Act. When it comes to green energy for the blue economy, our state motto applies: ‘Maine leads.’”

Following the discussion, the visitors moved outside to view Saco Bay Marine’s new rooftop solar array and examples of innovative “blue technology” that were on display. King and Hampson recognized the boatyard’s work to transition to solar energy and to help develop other green technologies for heritage marine businesses. In his remarks, Sen. King noted that the company’s work to research and develop electric commercial boat options heralds a time of change for Maine and for the country. “This all comes together right here, right now, in Biddeford, Maine,” he said.

“This award for Saco Bay Marine’s solar installation is well deserved. Matt and Sean’s work, particularly in the leading edge of marine electric transportation on the waterfront, will help Maine meet its climate goals while providing exciting workforce opportunities for Maine,” Ingwersen said.


Saco Bay Marine LLC is a Maine company with deep roots. It is the corporate parent of Rumery’s Boatyard, founded more than 60 years ago. Now owned by Sean Tarpey, the company offers boat storage, maintenance and repair, and boatlift and crane support. Saco Bay Marine secured a REAP grant in 2023 and completed installation of a 19-kilowatt, roof-mounted solar voltaic system. The system will generate most of the business’s energy needs (amounting to the equivalent of two homes taken off the grid in terms of reduced carbon emissions).

“Saco Bay Marine has had the goal of making marine oriented businesses more environmentally conscious for over a decade,” said Sean Tarpey, Saco Bay Marine and Maine Electric Boat. “The installation of these solar panels with the assistance of the USDA and the Biden Administration is a major step in the right direction. We are excited for the opportunity for Saco Bay Marine, as well as the innovative marine based environmental technology companies that we host through a critical development period.”

The boatyard is also home to startup companies Maine Electric Boat Company and Marine Solar Technologies, both led by Sean’s son Matt Tarpey. Maine Electric Boat offers vessels for the commercial market. The company also invests in research and development to develop electric outboard engines suited to Maine’s commercial fleet. Through Maine Electric Boat’s partnership with Flux Marine, and with assistance from Island Institute, one such boat is in use at Pendleton Yacht Yard on Islesboro. This vessel (the Take Charge) was on display at the Biddeford meeting.

After viewing the electric boats and other technology on display, event participants talked about the role such a business can play in the local economy. Maine is poised to lead in “Blue Tech” innovation, which has the potential to lift other sectors at the same time. Commercial boatowners may potentially save significant amounts of money and downtime as they transition to electric motors. Communities may soon be able to access real-time water quality data thanks to solar buoys. And in the meantime, grants for renewable energy installations remain available competitively to rural Maine businesses and agricultural programs through USDA’s REAP program.

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