Bar Harbor’s Bold Road to Solar
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Acadia National Park is arguably Maine’s crown jewel of environmental treasures – and certainly among its most popular, with over two million visitors annually. Protecting that natural resource, and facilitating its use in a sustainable way, is a top priority for the National Park Service and for Bar Harbor, the town which serves as the central hub for exploring Acadia. The best kind of smart development helps the environment while also helping business, and it’s this win-win that the Town of Bar Harbor has found with solar.
“A number of people wanted to see community-driven support for clean energy,” says Gary Friedmann, a Town Councilor of Bar Harbor. “I decided to initiate the process and got ReVision Energy to perform an evaluation of all the town buildings to identify the best solar sites. ReVision scoured all of our electric bills and visited town properties to determine the best opportunities for solar.”
Ultimately, the solar opportunities ReVision Energy uncovered for Bar Harbor focused on two projects:
- A 288 panel array for the Town, on its public works building, financed under a Power Purchase Agreement (the town pays no money upfront but pays a competitive cost for electricity)
- A solar farm for residents of Bar Harbor, based at the public works site. Up to 9 local households or businesses can benefit from a share of the clean power PV assets at this location.
These two projects are significant, though ultimately modest in scope, and Friedmann hopes they will spark a solar revolution on the island. “What we realized through this process is how much education we need to provide to the general public about solar,” Friedmann said. “Once people understand the basic concepts of solar, and how it benefits them as taxpayers, they are generally right on board.”
Solar provides the rare combination of environmental benefits combined with economic benefits. Friedmann remarked how “Here on the island, climate change is an existential threat to tourism and we should do something about it as a community. However, we also face financial realities. Solar is a unique win-win – every dollar saved thanks to solar is re-invested in the local economy rather than exported to a big fossil fuel company. We currently export millions of dollars from our local economy each year on energy, imagine what an impact it would make if that money stayed locally. Solar, and everything that goes with it (weatherization, conversion to heat pumps, electric cars) has the potential to re-invent our economy for the 21st century and simultaneously protect these natural resources we cherish.”
Community Solar Farmers Wanted
Bar Harbor’s inaugural community solar farm is currently looking for owner-members, who will make an investment of at least 15 panels (4.65kw) in the project, which will be roughly 50kw total in size. While under Maine law only 9 shareholders are able to be part of this initial project, Freidmann and other solar advocates hope that Maine’s legislature will modernize Maine law so that more members can be part of community solar farms.
If you’re not in Bar Harbor, worry not! There are other solar farms actively looking for members throughout Maine, and we shortly hope to offer some options for customers in New Hampshire as well.