HOULTON, Maine — Motorists traveling along U.S. Route 1 in Houlton probably noticed a significant collection of solar panels that recently popped up.
Spearheaded by Houlton resident Cameron Clark, the solar panels are just the latest economic venture for the young entrepreneur who started his first business while still in high school. It is also his most ambitious project yet.
A total of 200 solar panels have been erected adjacent to the Maine State Police barracks, where Clark’s lawn grooming business — Cam’s Lawn and Landscaping LLC — is established. The project has been a labor of love for Clark, who feels passionately about saving the environment.
Solar projects of various sizes are being erected all over Maine, but most of them this size tie into the New England power grid. Clark’s installation is strictly to power his businesses, including his rental apartments.
“I believe in the transition to sustainable energy, and on the business side, this project will fix my utility cost for 25 to 30 years, which is very comforting to me as a business owner knowing the cost of my electricity will never go up,” Clark said. “The solar array that has been installed on my North Street property is providing clean energy to 100 percent of the residential apartment buildings that I currently own throughout Houlton.”
The son of Jayne and Bruce Clark, Cameron got his first foray into the business world when he started his lawn grooming business while still in high school. He also proved to be quite the handyman with power tools, making picnic tables and later began wood carvings with a chainsaw under the name Cam’s Chainsaw Carving.
In 2016, he graduated from Houlton Middle-High School and turned his focus to pursuing an education in business at Husson University. In 2018, Clark received the very first “Young Professional” award from the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce for his efforts.
By the time he graduated from college in 2020 with a degree in business administration, Clark was already well on his way to establishing himself as one of the town’s up and coming businessmen as his lawn grooming business expanded to include all forms of landscaping and construction, along with a crew of several employees. He has also purchased several apartment buildings in the greater Houlton area.
Reducing his carbon footprint is the one project that he is most passionate about.
“My personal car is a fully electric vehicle and there will be some of those in my businesses very soon, so having an energy-generating facility at my location seemed like the right thing to do,” he said. “The energy from this solar array is also powering some of Houlton’s first carbon-neutral apartments when accompanied by electric heat or heat pumps and that is something I am proud to offer.”
Installed by Pine Tree Solar, the energy created by his panels is acquired by Houlton Water Company through a Net Energy Billing Agreement. HWC takes in the energy directly from the solar array then gives him credit for that energy on his utility bills.
“The array is expected to produce enough energy to cover 100 percent of the demand that comes from all of my apartment buildings throughout Houlton, but I plan on doing another project to allow for future expansion in the real estate business,” he said. “My tenants are excited to know 100 percent of their electricity is clean and they can actually see where it is being generated when visiting the array. My business does use all of the energy that is generated with none of it being sold to any offtakers.”
The panels are expected to have a 25- to 30-year lifespan with inverter work or replacement being the only maintenance.
“With that kind of lifespace it was simple to calculate that this was a good business decision,” Clark said. “Recently there has been a large energy price increase from other utilities in Maine driving up costs for customers. While it’s unlikely an increase like that would happen in the Houlton Water Company utility district, if it ever did, my tenants would be protected from any spike in cost.”