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.