April 02, 2020
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Initiative could move several large Maine electricity users to solar power

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Gaps in two rows of panels show yet more panels at a solar farm that was installed in late 2018 at a former landfill site next to the local Tremont town office. The project, which supplies electricity to the town's elementary school, is similar to another that resulted in 1,450 solar panels being installed on the roof of Mount Desert Island High School this summer.

A consortium of Maine businesses, the University of Maine and, possibly, the city of Portland could band together to procure a glut of solar energy that could power as many as 40,000 homes.

Last year, Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature enacted a suite of measures to incentivize buildout of solar power production in Maine — a turnaround from the LePage administration, which put the squeeze on what incentives there were.

One new opportunity could allow large-scale electricity users to jointly contract for solar energy and, when solar arrays built to serve the contract produce more electricity than needed, sell that excess back to the regional grid. That could create a significant revenue stream and offset much of the cost.

“Just our participation in this consortium represents about two-thirds of our total city and school department load, and we’re excited about doing because it makes a good step in the direction of the City Council’s goal of running the city on 100 percent renewable Energy,” said Troy Moon, Portland’s sustainability coordinator.

Plus, Moon said, the project could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, compared to its existing utility costs. The initiative is being put together by a Portland company called Competitive Energy Services, which has completed similar efforts in southern New England.

No contracts have been signed yet, but in addition to Portland, potential participants include the University of Maine, L.L. Bean, Pratt & Whitney and The Jackson Laboratory.

The Portland City Council will consider the proposal Tuesday.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

 


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