As a resident and town councilor, I believe it’s time for Orono to create a bold new vision for the future and to begin implementing that vision in 2019. Orono must make smart investments to lower the cost and impact of our future energy use and lead the state into a lower carbon future. That’s why I am advocating that Orono investigate installing solar photovoltaic panels on municipal buildings and/or grounds.
Municipal solar in Orono is a smart fiscal investment. Solar panels are being installed in the U.S. and around the world because harvesting energy from the sun saves money. One Maine installer reported that investments in solar panels by other municipalities are being paid back in less than 10 years. In the future, while towns around us are buying power from utilities to electrify their public buildings, I want Orono to be among the Maine towns that installed solar panels and spent less of our tax money on purchasing power from Emera.
Reducing human impacts on the environment is essential for the future of our children. My two sons were born at the start of this century. In their lifetime, the impacts of atmospheric pollutants that were predicted by scientists — warmer temperatures, melting glaciers and rising sea level, more extreme weather events, and the associated displacement of peoples around the globe — have all occurred and with greater severity than imagined. These changes are destabilizing lives, and it is our generation that must take action.
Will we make the changes to reduce our impact on the atmosphere, or will we fail to address the changing climate? The new normal in Maine is winter storms followed by spring-like warmth and melting, causing floods that undermine our roads, and will wipe out bridges. Only bold action can slow the pace of the changes in our climate.
Investments in solar will help grow a strong and vibrant economy. As the industries that historically thrived in Maine disappear, we must support the creation of industries that will grow the economy of Maine’s future. Renewable energy is an industry already creating jobs in Maine and across the country. These jobs pay well, they rely on local expertise, and they are at the heart of rebuilding local economies. Here in Maine, there are only a few solar panel installation companies, and they are all locally owned. Let’s help the solar industry in Maine grow by giving them work in Orono.
Investments in energy should benefit all citizens. Around the country, the economic benefits of most renewable energy projects (wind, hydro, on-site solar) go to corporations or individual owners. What sets municipally owned solar installations apart is that everyone in the town benefits from the reduced cost of the energy. When the town saves money on energy costs, all citizens win. I believe it is crucial that the future of renewable energy be based in community production, and I believe Orono should be among the towns that lead the way.
If you share this vision with me, go to https://goo.gl/forms/oKHWyIhOfnZbX5pE2 to sign the petition or email me at email@example.com. To show your support for municipal solar, join me at press conference in the parking lot behind the Orono Town Office at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 14.
Laurie Osher is an Orono town councilor.