Expanding Maine’s Community Solar Programs

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Community solar programs have grown in popularity throughout Maine. One of Hermon’s newest community solar farms has more than 14,000 solar panels.

HERMON, Maine – Governor Janet Mills has proclaimed the week of September 20-24 “Clean Energy Week”.

Clean Energy Week focuses on recognizing efforts to develop clean, renewable energy, offset the use of imported fossil fuels, and build a thriving economy with well-paying jobs across Maine.

“Community solar power gives a group of people the opportunity to draw their resources or come together to share the output of a larger solar project,” said Ted Rioux.

Ted Rioux works for Renewable Energy Ampion, a company that helps provide access to renewable energies through solar panels.

Community solar programs have grown in popularity statewide. One of Hermon’s newest community solar farms has more than 14,000 solar panels.

“It’s a five megawatt solar farm. It produces five megawatts of alternating current and sends it to the grid,” said Andrew Zimmerman, project manager for Cianbro.

Zimmerman said the project will be completed in November. Thirty to forty workers from Cianbro and other contractors worked on this new Hermon community solar farm. He said Cianbro was very proud to be a part of the Maine green movement.

Cianbro is also developing an identical project in Pittsfield.

Rioux explained that the project at Hermon is part of the energy net metering program and is aimed at residential consumers and small businesses. The consumer is subscribing, and the people behind the project have said that for a midsize home or small business, your bill will be about 15% less than what you currently pay.

In 2019, LD1711 expanded the program and set the capacity of community solar projects at five megawatts, which produces enough power to electrify 600 to 700 homes in Maine, Rioux explains.

“This has encouraged developers and investors to come to the state of Maine to build these community solar farms on behalf of electricity users,” Rioux said.

Basically the way it works is for people to invest in an offsite solar project and get discounts on utility bills.

“Well, these discount rates, compared to the standard utility tariffs, are fixed. So, regardless of the evolution of the retail energy price, consumers always pay a fixed, guaranteed discount rate on these standard offer tariffs, which are set by utilities, “says Rioux.

Available for homeowners, renters and small business owners.

The Maine Utilities Commission wants to remind people to always check their website or call them to make sure the solar company you are marketing is legitimate and that they are registered with the PUC. Here is a list solar energy companies approved by the PUC.

Susan Faloon works for the PUC, she said there are 231 registered distributed generation (DG), net energy metering (NEB), project sponsors and associated entities in Maine.

The newest community solar farm in Hermon is registered and approved by the PUC.

“These are good programs, and they are helping Mainers. They are going to lower our energy costs and they are going to contribute in a very positive way to the economic growth of the state,” said Rioux.

In 2019, lawmakers in Maine passed legislation to encourage the development of community solar projects and other renewable projects. One of the programs implemented in the shared energy billing program, they allow customers who are not able to have their own roofing projects to continue participating in renewable energy projects.

“So, under the program, the consumer can enter into an agreement to share or subscribe to a portion of this community solar project,” Faloon said. “The consumers’ share of the project’s output is reflected as a kilowatt-hour credit on their monthly electricity bill.”

“They can benefit from the savings that result from solar power and they can also benefit from participating in a program that helps reduce our carbon emissions,” Rioux said.

Faloon explained that if the projects are marketed to customers, then they must register with the Public Utilities Commission. She said entities marketing projects to customers must provide them with a net energy metering disclosure form.

“Consumers always pay a fixed, guaranteed discount rate on these standard offering tariffs which are set by utilities,” Rioux said.

Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham (D) is the Chairman of the Maine House of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

Berry said community solar power has boosted job creation in Maine.

“This year we said, the prices for solar power are going down, these jobs are being created and in fact we are seeing people from out of state meeting those needs, it’s wonderful, but with the prices come down, we think we can actually reduce the incentives and continue to see solar building, essentially getting more for our solar money! ”says Berry.

Berry says solar power will save you money. “These community solar farms put clean energy into the grid, they lower people’s bills and they create jobs,” Berry said. “One thing people need to understand better is that the utility is not giving you these savings, Central Maine Power or Versant Power customers are eligible.

He says it’s a competitive and very robust market that makes this clean energy available to the Mainers. He highlights three challenges: jobs, costs and land use.

“We want to make sure that the Maine workforce is able to build most of the solar farms that are going up, and if we go too fast, that workforce will not be there to meet the needs. needs and those workers will come out of state, ”said Baie.

For cost concerns, Berry says lawmakers must continue to balance costs as markets evolve. “What you are using is not just solar supply, you are also using the grid itself … so if we are late it may cost other customers, which is why we have to make sure as we think about how we balance costs within our system.

“If we do it right, solar will be a big part of our clean energy future,” Berry said.

“We have to make sure that the customers of these utilities don’t take on more burden than necessary, make sure that none of the players, whether they are utilities or developers, are making excessive profits,” Berry said.

“These are good programs, and they are helping Mainers, and they will lower our energy costs and they will contribute in a very positive way to the economic growth of the state,” said Rioux.

Rioux is in the process of finding new interested subscribers for the new community solar farm in Hermon. Here is a link with more information.


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