solar-home-maineAlan Caron editorial from the Portland Press Herald:

Ask most people in Maine about solar power, and you get a sensible answer: “We’re too far north for it to really work here.”

That would also be the wrong answer. The world’s leading solar power country today is Germany, which sits at a latitude that runs roughly from the top of Maine to Labrador. Consequently, we get about 33 percent more solar energy than they do.

Our problem isn’t a lack of sun, it’s a lack of imagination. In this rapidly changing world, we spend too much time looking to the past for solutions, and trembling at the thought of doing something new or bold. Instead of building a future that makes sense for us, we hunker down and wait for some helpful accident to happen.

While we’ve cut solar and renewable energy tax credits down to a big fat zero, over the last few years, making us the last state in New England in that category, New Hampshire has moved in the opposite direction. Today, that state provides $3,750 in rebates to homeowners and up to $50,000 to business owners who install solar systems. Massachusetts and Vermont do even more.

“But renewable energy cost more than oil and gas,” the do-nothing crowd reminds us. That’s true only if you look at the short-term number. But if solar enables us to keep our money here, instead of sending it to the Middle East, the real cost is a different story. The choice we have is to pay a little more so that we can to build an infrastructure that makes us independent of foreign oil, or continue our dependence but save a few bucks now. It isn’t a very tough call.

I was reminded of all this at a recent talk by Phil Coupe, co-founder of Maine’s largest solar installation company, ReVision Energy. Coupe is one of the successful entrepreneurs who’s been talking about the Maine economy at a series called “Pioneers of Maine’s Next Economy.” (See for details on future events, including the one next Wednesday with Corky Ellis of Kepware Technologies, which is a national leader in its field, based in Portland).

Coupe built a renewable energy company from two guys and a truck a few years back and now has almost 60 employees, selling not only solar but also pellet wood systems. He’s concerned about how we’re exporting money for energy, but also about millions of tons of carbon we’ve been throwing into the atmosphere.

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