CAMDEN — David Dickey is a hands-on guy. He describes himself as a "maintenance man." When I tried to arrange an interview with him, he told me: "I can't, I'm busy repairing a toilet. The porcelain lasts forever, so I just replace the insides." David is nothing but pragmatic.
David has maintained the Camden Riverhouse Hotel, the Extended Stay Inn, and the Cottage and Suites at 8 Tannery Lane for 27 years.
The receptionist's mother worked for David's grandfather. He recognizes cousins by their noses, and "there are a lot of them around." His family was taking fish back to England in the 1600s. When asked how many generations his family has been in Maine, he quips, "all of them."
These days, the hotel uses both photovoltaics and solar hot water heating.
As David said: "I sell hot water. When you pay for your room, you are paying for a hot shower. The payback on the solar hot water was only two and a half years. The water comes out of the ground here at 50 degrees, but the linen and towels must be washed at 160 degrees. The solar panels pre-heat the water, so the on-demand water heaters don't have to heat it up the entire 110 degrees."
David has been a long-time proponent of LED bulbs.
"I bought LED bulbs 27 years ago when they were ugly and expensive." He has converted all the bulbs on his properties to LEDs. His rallying cry? "LEDs everywhere."
Years ago, David purchased a blueberry farm from the estate of Omni Kangus, the eye doctor. Omni and David's grandfather were good friends; they drove 1946 Dodge trucks and owned 1936 John Deeres. David's grandfather got his spectacles from Omni.
So David was protective when he received a handwritten letter from Alan Robertson of BlueWave Solar about the blueberry farm. The letter proposed building a solar farm that would still allow blueberries to be grown and harvested. Agrivoltaics. The forward-thinking and pragmatic David Dickey was intrigued.
An agreement was reached, but there were conditions: Paul Sweet had been farming the land for David since the '90s. Paul must be closely involved with the project. And it absolutely must remain a blueberry farm.
Today the blueberry farm that David bought from his grandfather's eye doctor produces enough power for 800 homes. Paul is harvesting blueberries using specialized equipment built for working under the panels.
When David finds time, he maintains the hotel's lovely and cheerful vegetable and flower gardens. Finally, when everything else is shipshape, there's time for his venerable VW bus, “which still runs great!”