Maine’s First Solar Farm Built in Paris, ME

October 13th, 2014 by ReVision Energy
Maine Community Solar Farm Install Paris, ME

ReVision Energy solar installers working on the Maine’s first community solar farm, located in Paris, ME

After close to two years in development, ReVision Energy has started construction of Maine’s first community solar farm (CSF) at Sunnycroft Farm in Paris, ME. The CSF, a cooperative model for installing solar inspired by Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), facilitates construction of a large solar electric array at a remote side that is co-owned by a group of solar customers who live elsewhere.

In this case, there are nine co-owners of the Sunnycroft Farm CSF, who will split energy dividends from the 51kw grid-tied solar electric array. The shareholder’s investment in the CSF allows them to offset electric usage at their primary homes, which are unsuitable for on-site solar for a variety of reasons (shading, apartment building, etc.).

How it Works

The CSF’s structure is enabled by virtual net metering legislation, a set of laws that mandates that the utility allow renewable energy generation at one site be allowed to be used to offset usage at another site. Under Maine’s virtual net metering laws, up to 10 individuals can share ownership of a renewable energy project. The CSF’s power generation will be automatically shared amongst the investors on a percentage basis depending on the amount of investment an individual has made. For instance, a 6% share (equivalent to 12 panels) cost $6,283. This investment level is enough to offset daily driving of an electric car such as a Chevy Volt.

A $40,000 grant from Efficiency Maine helped this first CSF get started, making funds available to clear legal and regulatory hurdles introduced by the CSF. With the first ‘pilot’ project underway, ReVision Energy is actively looking for both hosts and participants in future CSFs, and is already in discussions for projects in Damariscotta, Peaks Island, and South Portland.

In particular, sites to locate CSF projects are needed. Sites with existing buildings with large amounts of ideal southern exposure are ideal, though bare land can also be developed for community solar farms.

Solar Here or Solar Away?

If you have a suitable site for solar, it is better to install solar at your home. It is simpler and you will own 100% of the solar energy system’s benefits. However, for those homeowners where solar-on-your-own-roof is not feasible, CSFs offer an option for you to still generate your own solar power.

Unlike purchasing ‘green’ credits from the utility, being a member of a CSF actually results in the construction of new renewable energy resources, and the CSF is a long-term investment where you will receive reliable recurring dividends from the solar production that increase in value incrementally over time as utility rates increase.

While technically a CSF can provide power for anyone within a utility’s service territory, we are trying to architect arrangements where the system is local; the homeowners who benefit from the system are close enough to it that they can visit it from time to time, and the various investors are close enough to be able to meet with one another and experience the ‘community’ part of community solar!

For more information on CSFs, contact us or read the informative Portland Press Herald article.

Unitil Rate Increases by as much as $42/mo for NH customers, CMP customers see $4/mo hike

October 6th, 2014 by ReVision Energy
Portland Maine Solar Heat Pump Option

Homeowners like Justin McEdward of Portland, ME are protected from energy rate hikes thanks to their investments in solar energy and heat pumps

Along with death and taxes, add utility rate hikes to the list of certainties in life. This week, Unitil announced a near-doubling of their electricity supply rate from 8.5c/kWh to 15.5c/kWh. This will result in a staggering cost increase ofroughly $42/month for the average homeowner in the Seacoast. Mainers in CMP territory are also affected, though by a smaller (~$4/mo) increase that took effect September 1.

The increased Unitil rates are driven because of competition to get ahold of natural gas. AsSeacoast Online reports, “more than half of New England’s electricity is generated by natural gas and heating customers get first crack at the total natural gas capacity, according to [ISO New England's Marcia] Bloomberg, whose company operates the New England Power Grid, runs the competitive wholesale electricity markets and plans for future power needs.”

The competition for natural gas for both heating and electricity means that the price per therm skyrockets in the wintertime, driving up the cost for both usages of the energy. Unitil has a near apologetic tone in the news article, suggesting that homeowners take “energy-saving and cost-cutting initiatives” and “look into third-party electricity supply organizations” for lower rates of electricity.

We suggest one more: GO SOLAR!!!.

With Own Your Power loans available, you can lock in an electric rate at or below your current electric supply rate, swapping out a monthly payment to the power company to a fixed payment for a solar energy system that you own. When you Own Your Power with Solar, your electric rate (for the solar portion) will never increase. After 12 years, it is gone forever. Utility rates can double or triple over that 12-year period, and your monthly payment will stay the same.

Large York County solar projects under way

October 2nd, 2014 by christine

york-solar-installTwo of the largest solar energy projects in Southern Maine got under way this month in South Berwick and York.

The 38kW system at the South Berwick Public Library consists of 144 roof-mounted solar panels. The 28kW system atop the York Beach fire station includes 104 solar panels.

Depending on the season and other factors, each solar array should provide most of the power for each respective building’s needs. Excess power produced during peak times will go back into the grid, earning credits against each town’s electricity bills, said Jennifer Hatch, marketing manager for project contractor ReVision Energy.

They are both pretty good-sized projects for Maine,” Hatch said in a recent interview. “There are not that many that are around the 20-40 kW range … but they are becoming more popular, especially with municipalities.

Full article is available here:

ReVision cites early adoption and state as factors in growth

October 2nd, 2014 by christine

An early start in marketing solar technology and doing business in a state receptive to renewable energy are a couple of the factors cited by ReVision Energy for growth that warranted inclusion on a Top 10 Companies to Watch.

“Over the last five years, when it comes to solar electricity and photovoltaic panels, we’ve had a 50 percent drop in cost,” he said. “That has driven the demand that we’ve just responded to.”

The state has renewable energy funds that, according to Clapp, offer a homeowner up to $3,750 rebate on the installation of a photovoltaic array and up to $50,000 for a commercial enterprise. That combined with federal incentives, said Clapp, means 40 to 45 percent of a renewable energy investment might be covered. In addition, no longer is the investment a cash transaction.

Full article available here:

Niese Family: “Solar is kind of a family thing”

September 29th, 2014 by ReVision Energy
Niese Family Solar - Pownal, MEPictured right is Kirk Niese and his family, who recently had a 5.6 kw solar electric array installed on their home in Pownal. We talked to Kirk about his passion for renewable energy and how a working Maine family can go solar.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get interested in solar?

I first discovered Solar PV in the early 1980′s as a kid and I remember even back then thinking that it was just a clever, no-brainer of an idea environmentally. Throughout college, graduate school and in my early years as a teacher of environmental studies, I developed an interest in sustainable energy production, home heating and fuel efficient transportation which I have held ever since.

I try to ‘walk the walk’ and run a low impact logging business on the side called Niese Forest Works. My students (8th grade science) take a unit on climate change and a separate unit on energy usage that includes having them look at their carbon footprints and investigate energy efficiency/efficient use of natural resources. My brother-in-law works for Pika Energy making wind turbines as well. It’s kind of in the family.

So what pushed you to go from solar enthusiast to solar customer?

Despite my keen interest, solar always seems out of the reach financially until I had the chance to chat with some ReVision folks up at the Common Ground Fair and at the Climate Change Summit in March of 2014. After consulting with ReVision and talking with the folks at Efficiency Maine, I realized that my fears about solar being too expensive for a working family were unfounded. For a little more than the cost of a monthly electricity bill, we could begin a flexible and surprisingly affordable loan payment that allowed us to own our solar PV system. In the short term, it’s very manageable. In the long term, it’s a win/win situation for us and for the planet.

Solar has many benefits beyond the obvious financial and environmental savings. My 8 year old daughter and I now check our kilowatt-hour output on our inverter on a daily basis. Simply knowing what we are capable of producing for electricity makes me want to live within our “electricity means” (for lack of a better term) and act even more conscientiously about reducing our demand for electricity through energy/efficiency upgrades and changes in our behaviors.

How’s the solar project working out so far?

I wish that we had made the decision to purchase PV years ago! Our system is putting out power at its estimated rating and is working flawlessly. I called ReVision once on a curiosity question and had a follow up phone call that was prompt and very helpful. Since our late June 2014 installation, our system has produced nearly 2 megawatts of energy and the banking of energy credits arranged through our utility company (CMP) is working smoothly. In short, ReVision has been a great partner to work with throughout the design and installation portion of the project and I have great confidence in their ability to answer my questions and troubleshoot in the future should the need arise.