TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE LIVING PRACTICES IN THE MID MAINE REGION

Mid-Maine Energy

April 12, 2016

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

measures.

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

the cost.

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

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