Sustain Mid Maine Coalition (SMMC), a non-profit organization focusing on developing the systems
and infrastructure for a sustainable economy in the mid Maine region, recently launched its Solarize Mid
Maine program, which reduces the cost of solar installations for residents and businesses in the region.
Since 2010, the Coalition’s Energy Team focused its efforts on reducing energy use through
weatherization programs and continues today to foster these programs through volunteer efforts
including its latest program of low cost interior window inserts. For the participants, these efforts have
reduced the amount of energy consumed by 20% to 40% each year.
According to an Efficiency Maine Trust Presentation at the 2015 Sustain Mid Maine Coalition Annual
Meeting, together the people of Maine can influence the price of electricity two ways: 1) decreasing the
amount of energy we use (reducing the demand for energy- especially in peak periods) and 2) increasing
the amount we generate (increasing the supply). Both will reduce the cost of energy.
As individuals we have the ability to do both:
Reducing energy consumption – by improving our home’s energy efficiency (with as little trouble as
using LED light bulbs or more comprehensive approaches such as air sealing, insulating our homes,
and installing super-efficient heat pumps).
Increasing the supply of energy – by producing our own energy sources – such as cutting fire wood
from our own woodlots or installing energy producing devices such as solar panels.
Keeping in mind the initial cost of solar, Sustain Mid Maine’s Solarize Mid Maine program is designed
to reduce the cost of solar installation for our region by issuing a competitive bid process, and recently,
negotiating a bulk buy agreement with Insource Renewables of Pittsfield, Maine, to install solar energy
systems. Those who sign up prior to June 4 will qualify for bulk pricing: the greater the number of
participants, the lower the price of the equipment and installation. Sustain Mid Maine Coalition has
already collected the names of 150 residents who are interested in exploring solar power for their home.
The model builds on the earlier efforts of communities across the United States to increase the amount
of solar energy installed in their towns or cities. Solarize efforts have been implemented in various states
across the country including Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire and
right here in Maine with the Solarize Freeport Program.
Solarize Mid Maine serves the communities of the greater Waterville-Winslow area, as well as the
greater Unity and Skowhegan regions (Insource Renewables will collaborate with Unity Barn Raisers
and Main Street Skowhegan to serve these additional communities).
As part of the program, all interested residents and businesses will receive a free solar estimate. In
addition, Insource Renewables will provide individual consulting on other energy options and will lead
community education sessions related to solar, mini-split heat pumps, and other effective energy
To date, a half dozen residents have signed contracts to install solar on their homes through Solarize Mid
Maine. Several more have received pricing and are waiting for Maine’s Solar legislation (that has
recently become heavily contested) to be resolved before finalizing their contracts.
Currently, if residents install solar panels that export more power to the grid than they draw
from the grid in a year, their excess energy is provided free to the power grid. Instead of removing
barriers that keep Mainers from installing solar, recent discussions have turned toward an effort to
eliminate Maine’s solar industry all together. This is exactly the type of uncertainty that Sustain Mid
Maine and other advocates were hoping could finally be eliminated in Maine. The uncertainty creates
questions as to whether this is a good time to buy solar. This is a critical question that is of concern to
the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition and all of Maine’s electric consumers. The less we create, the higher
Insource Renewables has been very active in the solar policy discussion and brings this expertise to the
Solarize Mid Maine program. As legislation solidifies, the considerations will be incorporated into the
program and our partners will provide guidance to participants.
We hope that some predictability will be provided by the legislature, so that we can make this program
as successful as possible.
For those interested in signing up for the Solarize Mid Maine program, please contact
www.solarizemidmaine.com or call 207-619- 4901.
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. Vaughan Woodruff is the owner of Insource
Renewables of Pittsfield, Maine.
Last modified: March 7, 2017