Solar panels help add jobs, cut costs at Bingham’s North Country Rivers

May 19th, 2015 by christine

north-country-solarWhen the sun beats down on the roof of the equipment barn at North Country Rivers this summer, it will be doing more than drying off the kayaks and whitewater rafting equipment scattered around the outside of the building.

With the help of more than 140 solar panels installed last week, the energy from the sun will be captured and converted into electricity that will fuel about 50 percent of the resort’s energy needs.

The $105,000 project, which was partly funded with a federal grant, is part of an overall $250,000 energy revamp at the resort that started in 2011 with a desire to be more environmentally friendly and reduce energy costs, said owner Jim Murton. The savings generated from energy costs so far has also helped expand North Country Rivers into a year-round operation and since 2011 has added about 15 full-time year-round jobs.

“We really wanted to be open 12 months a year and have a payroll 12 months a year for our key employees,” Murton said. “We really had to look at controlling energy costs if we wanted to stay open in the winter. This was really a key driving force in allowing us to go year-round and be a four-season outfitter.”

Full article is available here: https://www.centralmaine.com/2015/05/17/solar-panels-help-add-jobs-cut-costs-at-binghams-north-country-rivers/


Maine Bills Could Unlock Solar Future, if Lawmakers Show the Will to Move Forward

May 7th, 2015 by Fred Greenhalgh
NRCM Augusta - Solar Supporters Gather to Support LD1263

On Thursday, April 16th, solar supporters gathered in Augusta to speak up for LD1263

Maine’s 127th legislature is faced with big decisions with long term ramifications – embrace a solar future, or take backwards-looking policies that leave Maine trailing the rest of the world in solar adoption?

A snapshot of the bills in the pipeline:

  • LD1263 - ReVision supports – The most ambitious pro-solar bill, LD1263 would increase the # of people who can participate in a solar farm (currently 10), create a solar carve-out in the State’s RPS, and create performance-based incentive for solar production (SREC).  It faces the most opposition because it would facilitate some large-scale solar projects which the utilities don’t care for.
  • LD1073 - ReVision supports – This would create some sort of rebate for agricultural businesses that go solar, under a new fund administered by Efficiency Maine.  LD1073 has reasonable support and a Republican sponsor; however, as the new funding would come from a (nominal) fee on ratepayers, it faces opposition.
  • LD1355 - ReVision supports (tentatively) – This would create some sort of rebate for solar photovoltaic installations installed to power an air source heat pump heating system.  Such systems would be eligible for financing through on-bill billing through the utility.  We are anxious about a path that opens the door to utility ownership of solar, however, anything that gives utilities some stake in solar (and thus maybe reduces their antagonism to new solar legislation) is helpful.  We’re tentatively in support of the bill but will watch it carefully as the Committee works on it to see if we remain supportive.
  • LD1400 - ReVision STRONGLY opposes – Gov. LePage promised his own solar bill and this is it – a bill that couches a wholesale slaughter of net metering and the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) under the guise of ‘reducing energy cost.’  It also charges the PUC (whose commissioners are all now LePage appointees) to broker the rates under which renewable energy would be sold.  This bill would have, frankly, terrifying consequences for all forms of renewable energy in the state of Maine, though we think (hope) its chance of passage is slim.  Very few Legislators (of any party) are as strongly opposed to renewable energy as Governor LePage is.  Most people understand that the best energy is that which is generated for free, locally, and installed and serviced by workers in the State of Maine.

On a related note, on the national front, Maine’s Independent Senator Angus King has proposed bold new legislation to support distribution generation that embraces free market principles.  What’s fascinating about solar energy policy, is that it draws together environmentalists and fiscal conservatives alike.  Said Debbie Dooley, Founder of the Green Tea Coalition, “This is something true free-market conservatives should support.”

Energy Roads Diverged in a Wood

Solar VillageThe legislative hearing illustrated the clash of two visions of Maine’s energy future: the solar vision of a less centralized, more locally owned and operated, smarter, cleaner grid. Maine would generate more of its electricity in Maine and utilities would transition from having monopoly control of the power grid, to service providers who would have to compete in order to please and retain customers.

The alternate vision: more of the status quo. Keep the central grid and all of its inefficiencies, and rather than enacting public policy that facilitates ratepayers owning and generating their own power, force them to pay (through PUC-sanctioned rate increases) for centralized infrastructure, built by out of state companies, for the profit of major corporations. This vision would have Maine ratepayers “invest” in infrastructure that chains Maine to the volatile world energy market price of natural gas.

Fossil energy apologists continue to paint solar as unaffordable and a product for the elite, and claim that net metering policy (receiving a 1:1 energy credit for kilowatt-hours sold to the utility) is a burden on the poor. This stale argument continues despite a mountain of evidence that points out the contrary, such as Maine’s own Value of Solar study which was conducted by the relatively solar unfriendly Maine PUC using a neutral third-party consultant (who employed an exhaustive, defensible process for making their claims that solar provides a 33cents per kilowatt-hour levelized cost of electricity to the grid).

The irony of the message of the utilities/fossil energy supporters is that they are not actually proposing that Maine ratepayers avoid making significant investments. In fact, they are rushing full-steam ahead to get PUC-approval on extremely expensive infrastructure such as a $750million+ natural gas pipeline. In contrast, the cost (once the economic benefits are factored in) of LD 1263, over 20 years, is less that $15/million/year (source: Cost analysis by OPA and NRCM).

So, an apparent contradiction: policy support for solar is a “subsidy,” and policy support for natural gas is an “investment.”  The reality is that the policies proposed by Gov. LePage and his supporters would result in less local control, and higher energy costs, not the lowering of such costs.

In our view, the only way to truly reduce long-term energy costs is through widespread and rapid adoption of renewable energy.  Fossil fuel scarcity is a reality and costs will increase, as we explained in our piece the “Myth of Cheap Natural Gas.”  Decentralized, smarter, distributed energy is the future of energy and, frankly, considering the environmental situation, the only path that leaves us an inhabitable planet.  Energy policy should be geared towards accelerating the transition to renewable energy in as non-disruptive a way as possible, not clinging towards 1950s ideas of a centralized energy grid designed to prop up an inherently outdated business model.

It’s possible to do this.  The technology exists and is affordable today.  Hawaii just announced policies that would get the islands 100% renewable by 2045.

Next Steps

maine - solar energy - barnIf you would like to see better solar policy in Maine, now is the time to write letters to the editor to your local papers, and call or email your state legislators. Politically, solar faces strong headwinds in the Maine legislature and Governor’s office, however, some of solar’s key opponents are softening their stance as they learn more about the technology’s benefits and potential to both create jobs in the state of Maine and improve our energy security/independence.

Find your Maine representative at: http://legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm and State Senator at: http://legisweb1.mainelegislature.org/wp/senate/find-your-senator/.  A list of contacts for state and weekly papers is here.

There has been excellent media coverage of solar’s growth in Maine recently, see:

Why should Maine encourage solar policy?

  • Maine is falling behind other New England states when it comes to solar policy, largely due to lack of state policy – NOT as a result of lack of a solar resource. LD1263, for minimal ratepayer impact, closes this gap significantly.
  • Maine’s own “Value of Solar” study found that solar offers much greater benefits to everyone on the grid, than benefits the person who receives net metering.
  • LD1263 would make numerous large-scale solar projects economically viable, benefiting municipalities such as Gouldsboro, Sanford, South Portland, Elliott, Berwick, Washington and Limestone.
  • LD 1263 would support the creation of an estimated estimated 10,000 residential projects and nearly 3,000 business or community-based solar installations.

Mt. Vernon Couple Powers Heat, Business, and Life with Solar PV

May 5th, 2015 by Jen Albee

Wayne Davis Solar Powered Heat Pump

Wayne Davis with his solar powered heat pump!

When Wayne Davis and his wife Christine bought an old village garage in 2003, solar wasn’t part of their grand renovation plan.

The garage / service station, perched on the northwest shore of Minnehonk Lake in Mount Vernon, ME, had been abandoned for many years… and had seen better days. “It took me a year and a half to make it livable, and another year and a half to fix it up,” says Wayne, a retired professor of marine ecology and current course leader with Landmark Worldwide.

Twelve years later, their home is also their business, The Lakeside Loft. “Our vision was always to have this place be a lure for friends and family,” says Wayne, and with many repeat guests arriving year after year to enjoy the swimming, kayaking and canoeing right outside Lakeside Loft’s door, that vision is assured.

The Road to Solar

Wayne met ReVision for the first time in 2013 at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, ME, and had a positive experience from the start. “It’s obvious that ReVision is committed to creating a better future, that they’re here for the long term. With solar, it’s about much more than energy – it’s about stability and independence as well.”

A few months later, Wayne committed to an on-site evaluation with ReVision system designer Hans Albee. According to Wayne, “Hans answered all of my questions, was very helpful and accessible, but he also deepened my education about solar. He gave me good advice and left room to ask questions, and I was allowed to make decisions that were right for me.”

After conducting a shade analysis and learning more about his site, Wayne learned his standing seam metal roof could handle twice as much solar electric as he would need to offset his CMP bill. With that in mind, Wayne looked into offsetting his oil heating costs with air source heat pumps.

Now Wayne and Christine’s rooftop is covered with 33 Canadian Solar panels, each rated at 255 watts, and have three heat pumps within the building – one in their primary residence and two to heat and cool their guest rooms. Thankfully, Wayne has also taken care to keep track of his solar production!

Solar PV Generation - Wayne Davis

The Future Depends on Today

“Our installation team, especially Ryan (Herz, master electrician), was very knowledgeable,” says Wayne. “I’ve been so happy with ReVision’s extraordinary customer service. I can trust in the product and the people. One of the key elements to a successful business is happy employees – if you don’t take care of the people who take care of the customers, it’s apparent – with ReVision, you can see happiness on everyone’s faces.”

When asked about the future of energy, Wayne is optimistic. “Our saving grace is that the next generation will be so capable – they’ll have a great capacity to handle the things we can’t. The future is in development right now, and we’re waking up to what we need versus what we really don’t, especially as resources are shrinking.” Wayne calls to mind a memorable quote from Martin Luther King, Jr: “‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’ The truth is that it’s cost effective to live as brothers, and it’s also an imperative.”

The Lakeside Loft is ready to welcome you in 2015! Learn more about Wayne and Christine’s guest house at http://www.thelakesideloft.com/.


ReVision Becomes Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor

April 22nd, 2015 by Fred Greenhalgh
Mitsubishi Electric Heat Pump Diamond Contractor

ReVision Energy joins a handful of contractors who’ve achieved the prestigious “Diamond Contractor” rating from Mitsubishiontractor

ReVision Energy is proud to announce that we have achieved the prestigious “Diamond Contractor” status for Mitsubishi Electric’s Cooling & Heating line of mini and multi-split heat pumps used in homes and businesses. Effective immediately, our primary equipment choice for heat pump heating is Mitsubishi Electric.

We still support, and in some cases may install, other brands of heat pumps, but our move to Mitsubishi Electric was a result of a few specific reasons:

  • Local customer service – We have a long-standing relationship with our distributor, Bell Simons, who we have worked with for nearly 10 years.  We have come to depend upon them as a top-notch supplier, selling only quality products and backing them up with excellent service.  Excellent service from our suppliers means we can continue to honor ReVision Energy’s own commitment to legendary customer service for our customers, so the importance of having a quality local partner providing us equipment cannot be overstated.  Bell Simons has a track record of service in New England for over 75 years.
  • Technical excellence – Mitsubishi Electric’s latest generation of heat pumps introduced several key innovations, impressing our technical team with the efforts they are taking to produce the very highest quality and best performing heat pump available.  Engineering excellence is on par with customer service excellence, and ReVision Energy will only install equipment that meets our exacting standards.  Mitsubishi Electric is the leader in heat pump technology.  Specifically, we are impressed with their Hyper Heat low temperature performance and efficiency advancements in multi-split configurations.
  • Industry-leading warranty – Mitsubishi Electric stands behind their product.  As a Diamond Contractor, ReVision Energy will be able to offer a 12 year parts and compressor warranty on single-family, residential installation, and a 5 year parts and 7 year compressor warranty on multi-family and commercial installations.

The latest Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps also look quite attractive!  Here are some photos from a recent installation in Greene, Maine:

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about mini (or multi) split heat pumps and how they can help you dramatically reduce oil or propane use in your home or business.


Q&A with Trent Welch: “I saved more money than I thought I would!”

April 14th, 2015 by Fred Greenhalgh

Solar Electric Array in York MaineWe love talking to our customers to learn the back-story of solar.  What got them interested?  How is their system working?  This month, we feature Trent Welch.  Trent is Sales Manager at GC/AAA Fences in Dover, and recently installed solar and a heat pump at his home (and the business is consider their own systems!).  He has a year of data on his system now, which he was kind enough to share with us.

Tell us a little about yourself.  What’s your background and what got you interested in solar?

I am 43 years old and live in York Beach, Maine with my wife Katie and three kids Josie, Shea and Jack (one out of college and now on her own, one in college and my son is in high school).  We have lived in our home since 2008.  By no means am I a “homesteader living off the grid type”, but we try to do our part.  It’s clear our actions have an impact on the environment and it’s become more mainstream to implement “green” changes to one’s lifestyle.  This started with the obvious – going all organic in my yard and garden, installing simple pull down solar shades on the South end of the house and basic conservation efforts, like turning off lights that aren’t being used.  It’s much easier to not use the electricity in the first place, no matter how it’s produced!

4-5 years ago I realized that my roof was very well positioned for solar panels. I started to research the idea and eventually found my way to Revision Energy for a solar consultation.  I loved everything about it but with two kids about to enter college I was looking for a financial arrangement where I would end up at net zero cost after electricity savings.  At the time, the numbers just didn’t add up, so the project was put on hold.

So what made you decide to go from solar ‘curious’ to solar customer?

About four years after my first inquiry with Revision, I heard that the solar craze was causing prices to drop drastically.  I decided to inquire again and a few things had changed in my favor.

First, the price did indeed go down (actually, it was about the same total project budget, but I got more production as the modules were more efficient – my roof could now hold a 3.6kw array rather than a 2.8kw array).  Second, the new mini-split heat pumps were gaining popularity (and my house is perfect for it) and actually ended up being a more financially advantageous change than the solar. Third, Revision now works with a specialty bank for low interest fixed loans to finance these types of projects.  This was huge because I was (and still am) in the midst of the previously mentioned tuition payments.

It certainly took some time and attention, like any home project, but I was able to install the solar array as well as a 15,000 btu Fujitsu mini-split heat pump for zero dollars out of pocket.

Awesome.  So, how’s it worked out so far?  Has everything been to your expectations?

Electric Heat Pump for Home in York MaineThe solar panels worked out very closely to what I was told for electricity production.  The heat pump definitely exceeded expectations.  I was told that it would handle 100% of my heating during the “shoulder” heating months and then I would need my backup (propane) to help with the two coldest months.

The reality was that I used my back up propane heat for exactly ONE night, looking back I could have toughed it out and gone for ZERO.  Considering the record breaking February we just had, I am thrilled with this.  The added cost of electricity to run the heat pump ended up being a fraction of what the propane would have been, and the heat pump performed well even during extreme cold.  As with anything new, it takes some time to understand and tweak it, but what a great system.  It’s also a 15,000 btu air conditioner – I don’t use that much but it’s nice to have.

My one year anniversary of going on-line was March 8th, 2015, so I have some hard numbers to talk about.  In choosing to finance the system and incur some finance charges, I actually expected to be at a slight deficit in year one – instead, I was $104 in the positive!  This is a result of saving more money than I anticipated by reducing electricity AND propane costs.  I also made a bit of money selling off my old propane heater on craigslist.  While this is encouraging, what is even more exciting is that this savings per year will only stand to increase as the cost for propane and electricity rises in the future – my savings will improve proportionally.

Of course, the most important impact of the PV system was in reducing over 3.2 tons of CO2 emissions from electrical plants since going online.  We also used about 560 fewer gallons of propane (which works out to an additional 3.5 tons of CO2 emissions avoided!).  Overall, it’s a huge win, for both our family finances, and the planet.