By Abigail W. Adams
Lincoln County News news story
A sunny day in Edgecomb has new meaning due to a recently constructed solar farm on River Road. The solar farm, which is the second in Maine and the first to be member-owned, is ready to harvest energy from the sun to reduce the electric bills and greenhouse gas emissions of the Edgecomb Community Solar Farm Association’s nine members.
“It feels incredibly empowering to know that we can get our family almost entirely off of fossil fuels,” association President Lynne Gilbert said.
The idea for the solar farm in Edgecomb grew out of meetings of the Midcoast Green Collaborative, a grass-roots organization that formed in 2004 in the wake of protests over Wal-Mart’s proposal to open a store in Damariscotta.
According to the collaborative’s co-founder, Paul Kando, the organization formed to explore renewable energy as a source of economic growth. Approximately one year ago, the collaborative hosted a series of meetings on energy efficiency and recent rulings by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Gilbert said.
The rulings enabled a group of energy consumers to form an association to generate power through a renewable energy or technology and receive credit for the energy produced from a utility company. Members of the collaborative began to discuss the possibility of creating a solar farm.
Representatives from ReVision Energy, a renewable energy contracting company that operates throughout northern New England, were invited to a collaborative meeting to discuss the first solar farm in Maine, established in South Paris through a lease agreement.
“We were off to the races,” Gilbert said.
Edgecomb residents David Nutt and Judith Sandick offered their barn on River Road as the location for the installation of solar panels. The couple had already independently contacted ReVision Energy and learned the barn was perfectly oriented for solar panels.
Through the help of attorneys from Drummond & Drummond, a Portland-based law firm, nine members of the Midcoast Green Collaborative founded the Edgecomb Community Solar Farm Association in March and the installation of approximately 182 255-watt solar panels on a barn on River Road began.
The Edgecomb Community Solar Farm Association’s installation is designed to produce approximately 59,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year and offset 27 tons of carbon annually, said Jennifer Albee, customer relations manager for ReVision Energy.
Construction of the installation cost approximately $180,000, Albee said.
The installation is the first in Maine to be owned by the members of the association. According to Albee, energy generated from Edgecomb’s solar farm will feed into Central Maine Power’s electrical grid. Association members will receive credit for the energy generated by the farm, which will offset their electric bill in the winter months when the farm generates fewer kilowatt-hours.
The solar farm model allows anyone in Central Maine Power’s service area to benefit from the credits generated by solar power and is an important alternative to personalized solar panel systems. Properties not well-suited for solar panels due to their location in relation to the sun can still benefit from solar energy, Albee said.
The Edgecomb Community Solar Farm Association members all live in Lincoln County, Gilbert said. The cost-sharing for the installation and the energy credits association members will receive is based on each member’s share size in the association, she said.
The maximum number of members a solar farm can have is nine, according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission. If the solar farm generates enough interest, there has been talk of starting a second farm in Lincoln County, Gilbert said. “At the moment, we have quite a lot on our plate,” Gilbert said.
Construction of the solar farm in Edgecomb is complete, Albee said. The association is waiting on Central Maine Power to do some infrastructure work to connect the farm to its electrical grid. Once Central Maine Power completes its side of the work, the solar farm will begin to generate power for the company, Albee said.
A spokesperson from Central Maine Power could not comment on when the work would be complete, due to their non-disclosure policy in relation to their customers.
Albee said she hopes the solar farm will be online in August. “This is a group of committed individuals saying we’re going to do something good for our pockets and good for our future,” Albee said.