Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Maine’s First Solar Farm Built in Paris, ME

Monday, October 13th, 2014
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.


Large York County solar projects under way

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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: http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140918/GJNEWS_01/140919260


Powered by the sun – via panels many miles away

Friday, September 26th, 2014

community-solar-farm-maineFalling prices for solar-electric panels are enticing Mainers who want to install them at their homes. That’s not an option, however, for Jim Atwell, an environmental engineer from Falmouth. He lives in a condominium, and the homeowners’ association won’t allow a solar array on the roof.

But starting next month, Atwell will begin meeting 80 percent of his annual electric demand with solar panels – installed 50 miles away on the roof of an old chicken barn in the Oxford Hills.

Atwell will become one of nine Mainers who are shareholders in the state’s first community solar farm. The farm is a shared solar project that feeds power from the sun into the electric grid. Each member owns a slice of the total power produced and gets a credit on his electric bill. After the initial investment is repaid, the shareholders’ electricity is essentially free.

Atwell’s 12 percent share in the project is costing him roughly $14,000, and he’ll save an estimated $1,100 a year on his bill. That’s a long payback, but money isn’t his primary motivator.

“This is proof of concept, and success will be nine happy customers,” said Fortunat Mueller, co-founder of ReVision Energy in Portland, which is developing the project. “But we’re excited about the long-term market potential. We want to make it easy and repeatable.”

Full article available here: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/09/22/powered-by-the-sun-via-panels-many-miles-away/


DownEast Magazine – A drafty saltbox has been remodeled into a cozy and highly energy-efficient home

Friday, September 26th, 2014

king-house-solarSolar technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Built overlooking a pond in Falmouth in the 1970s, this modified passive-solar saltbox was so drafty that “within 45 minutes of the sun setting, the house was cold as stone,” says owner Claudia King. In addition, the interior was dark and cheerless, barely offering a glimpse of the pond and cut off from the 10-acre property’s garden and fields by a scarcity of doors and windows.

King and her husband, Lindsey Tweed, hired Kaplan Thompson Architects and builder Dan Kolbert, both of Portland, to make the house more energy efficient and to improve the interior spaces and flow.

Because the project required gutting the entire structure, it would have cost less to build from scratch, King says, but “we liked our site, we wanted to use what we could, and we didn’t want to build something larger.”

Full article is available here: http://www.downeast.com/energy-efficient-maine-home/


Solar a “No Brainer” for Builders at Benjamin and Company

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Brunswick, Maine - Solar
A super efficient home built by Benjamin & Company for a homeowner in Brunswick, Maine.

We spoke with builder Ben Hemberger of Benjamin & Company about his high quality, energy efficient custom timber-frame home building business. We’ve collaborated with them on numerous projects where solar was integrated with the home design, and wanted to get a sense of what is drawing people in to build their homes better and when and how solar enters into the discussion.

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

My father was an architect so I’ve been around the industry my entire life. I learned from my father that the carpentry trade is as much about building personal relationships and trust as it is about building houses. After exploring general carpentry, boat building and even architecture, I became interested in timber framing and went out and started my own business. We do a variety of high-end custom homes and timber framing, sometimes near net zero or passive homes but usually just looking for a ‘pretty good house.’

I’ve always been interested in energy efficient homes, starting out with solar in the mid 2000s though the technology wasn’t quite there yet. Flash forward to 2011, and I worked with ReVision for a home in Brunswick where we installed solar PV, solar hot water, and an integrated solar thermal heating system. Every home since has had solar PV. Today, it’s a no-brainer.

Can you tell us about a typical discussion with a prospective homeowner? Do you have to convince them solar is a good idea?

Our clients tend to come self-educated to a large degree: they already understand the value of solar and I don’t have to ‘sell’ it to them. Instead, we talk about the latest technology improvements, which is generally how affordable it is to generate your own electricity supply on-site with renewable solar energy, and then use that electricity to meet your heating and cooling needs with heat pumps. Once they look at the numbers, it’s a clear no-brainer.

Do people feel they need to make a trade-off between comfort and energy efficiency?

People know that solar and efficiency saves them money and is the right thing to do for the environment. What they often don’t realize, at first, is that it also results in a much more comfortable home to live in. An energy efficient house is more comfortable year-round and has higher indoor air quality. You don’t get surprise energy bills that are financially burdensome. You pay a little bit more upfront but enjoy a lifetime of peace of mind.

What one piece of advice would you give to people considering building a new home and trying to wade through all the options available to them?

Build as small and simply as you feel you can to save on energy and maintenance. It’s very popular to build bigger homes, but the reality is that the simpler you get, the easier it is to do all of this.