Maine’s Largest Solar Array Built at Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell
Maple Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast Inn and Conference Center recently flipped the switch on Maine’s largest solar energy array.
The combined solar hot water and solar electric system is expected to reduce MHF’s annual CO2 emissions by more than 40,000 pounds. MHF also uses a wind turbine with a capacity of 10 kilowatts to generate renewable energy on their property, which was installed in 2003.
The solar energy system was installed as part of Maple Hill Farm’s commitment to minimizing their impact on the environment. As Maine’s first certified “Environmental Leader” green lodging establishment and the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, Maple Hill Farm has made a major financial commitment to renewable energy with both wind powered and now solar powered systems.
Maple Hill Farm is also a participant in the Governor’s Carbon Challenge and has set a voluntary goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2010.
Integral to the construction of the project was their successful application to receive a Rural Development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the amount of $41,500 toward the overall cost of the $166,000 system.
Representatives of the USDA will be available at the ribbon-cutting. Scott Cowger, co-owner of Maple Hill Farm, said “The funding provided by USDA was key to this project moving forward, and we are grateful for the support of this commercial-scale renewable energy project. We plan to demonstrate the economic viability of clean energy generation for commercial properties right here in Maine.”
Maple Hill Farm also received a low-interest loan from the Maine Public Utilities Commission Energy Conservation Loan Program. “The availability of the low-interest loan for $35,000 towards the project helps improve the payback period,” added Cowger. It is anticipated that representatives from the PUC will also be available for the press event.
Maple Hill Farm was also a recipient of a grant from the Downeast Solar Co-Op “PV Reinvestment Fund” administered by the Maine Energy Investment Corporation (MEIC) in Brunswick. Erika Morgan of MEIC will be presenting Maple Hill Farm a check for $3000 toward the project as part of the ribbon-cutting event on Thursday. MEIC has also arranged for real-time monitoring equipment to be installed on the photovoltaic portion of the solar energy system, and this information will be available on the internet for anyone to view in the near future.
The monitoring system will qualify Maple Hill Farm’s solar electric system to be able to sell the renewable energy credits, or “green tags”, to the New England Power Pool through the Downeast Solar Co-op.
Cowger summarized the business decision to invest in solar energy by saying “With the Federal tax credits available for commercial solar energy systems, the grants and loans we have successfully received, the electric and fuel oil savings, and the income from the sale of the green tags, we hope to see a payback of around 5 years.”
The solar energy system at Maple Hill Farm complements their 10 kilowatt wind turbine installed at the property which is easily viewed while looking at the solar panels. The press event will be held on a flat roof directly in front of the solar panels (weather permitting), and there is easy access to the rooftop by stairs.
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