The prospect of reduced energy prices over the next 12 months has not dampened interest or
enthusiasm for solar power. Certainly the idea of significantly reduced electric bills are the main
goal for many. Others are attracted by the idea of reducing their carbon footprint to do their part
for climate change. Affordability continues to increase particularly with bulk purchase plans
As a result of this interest, Sustain Mid Maine Coalition (SMMC) held its first “Solarize Mid
Maine” information session in September to explore the interest in a regional “group purchase”
of solar voltaic (PV) equipment and the associated installation expenses. Over 70 participants,
ranging from North Anson, to Gardiner and from Winthrop to Unity, packed the room at Colby’s
Diamond Building, exhausting all the seating to leave people standing along all the walls.
We started the meeting with a short presentation about SMMC which is a nonprofit organization
focused on promoting sustainable living practices in the Mid Maine region. SMMC’s Energy
team is currently focused on three projects:
Free energy consultations (by trained local volunteers),
WindowDressers (low cost interior window inserts that are assembled by SMMC
volunteers during what is called a “community build”) and
Solarize Mid Maine Project.
The Solarize Mid Maine Proposal is similar to other New England initiatives including a project
run by Vital Communities (in the Upper Connecticut River Valley – New Hampshire and
Vermont) and more locally, the recent project organized by the town of Freeport. We look to
gather 400 interested home owners, businesses, and solar farm participants who will receive a
free site evaluation as well as a quote. With that information, the participants can then make their
final decision. Once they decide to go forward, the total cost includes licensing and permitting,
equipment and installation, and connection to Central Maine Power. Installations before the end
of 2016 will qualify for a thirty percent Federal Income Tax Credit or accelerated depreciation
for business (five years), and the potential bulk cost discount of 8-10%.
Questions from the audience were answered by three PV experts who provided answers to
technical questions and shared their experiences with individual residences and small businesses.
Options for those with poor roof exposure was discussed. Economists and energy experts from
Colby College contributed to the discussion. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of energy in the
room (pun intended!). The Energy Team is very excited by the level of interest and participation
We want to extend a second invitation to the public to attend an information meeting Thursday,
October 22 at 6:30 pm in Room 145, Diamond Building, Colby College. We will continue to
introduce our Mid Maine community to the idea that many people can afford solar PV systems.
We will explore the question “Is Solar for Me?” While many may make the solar decision based
on values alone, the October 22 nd meeting is designed to help those who need more information
before signing up to subsequent site evaluations and cost estimates.
We will help you look at your total energy consumption whether it be electricity, oil, gas,
propane, or wood. We will quantify your total energy cost and suggest changes you can make.
After that we will factor in PV. We can explore the possibility of optimizing your solar energy
generation by adding a heat pump to reduce your use of other fuels.
A number of banks and credit unions have low interest “energy” loans available to help finance
the purchase and installation. Financing options, tax incentives, group buy discounts will all be
part of the payback estimate reviewed on October 22.
You can begin your discovery today by determining your current fuel use (oil, gas, propane, and
wood). You can look at your CMP bill to determine how many kilowatt hours (kWh) are you
using each month (or call CMP and ask for help using the data from your smart meter). Bring
this information with you when you come to the meeting.
Solarize Mid Maine is looking for households and small business who are interested in learning
more about this project. Join us in Rm 145, Diamond Building, at Colby College October 22 at
6:30pm. If you have any questions before the meeting, please email me at jreuthe@waterville-
John Reuthe is a home energy program evaluator and a residential energy
program manager. He has been the director of Sustain Mid Maine
Coalition's Home Energy Program since 2010.
Last modified: March 7, 2017