Founded in 1994, when Portland’s downtown vacancy rate was 40%, Coffee by Design has from its origins been a promoter of local art and nexus of Portland’s community. From their humble origins, they have grown into a staff of 45, with four coffeehouses (three are icons of Portland’s downtown and one is at LL Bean’s flagship store in Freeport) and a micro-roastery on Portland’s East End.

Always driven by values – and quality – Coffee by Design has tried to do the right thing for decades by being selective with coffee purchasing and nurturing relationships with their coffee growers. They compost their coffee grounds, and were one of the first coffeehouses to offer biodegradable plastic cups. They are big supporters of local art, and Portland Buy Local, and so the next step – local energy – was a natural fit.

“For years, solar had been a dream,” said CBD co-founder Alan Spear, “Originally we had thought we would just get a couple panels up there, but it became clear that the opportunity was to cover our entire roof with solar panels.”

That opportunity was a grant from Efficiency Maine, which offered a $20,000 grant for energy efficiency upgrades, including solar. ReVision Energy and CBD partnered to work on the grant, which was no small feat in itself. “It was a lot of work,” comments CBD’s other co-founder, Mary Allen Lindeman. “Luckily we had ReVision’s great staff to help us through the process and put the whole thing together.”

Even after they successfully secured the grant, being able to install solar was not certain. CBD still needed to come up with the capital for the other half of the project, and the condition of their Washington Ave roof space required additional investment. But, as the grant’s deadline started to approach, conditions started lining up for CBD to make the project happen. “We just couldn’t let this pass us by,” Lindeman said, “So we decided to make it happen and realize our dream.”

Solar Powered Coffee Roasting

Coffee by Design Solar - Washington Ave, Portland, Maine

44 solar electric panels installed for Coffee by Design’s Washington Ave roastery in Portland, Maine

That solar dream? 44 grid-tied photovoltaic panels which cover just about every usable inch of roofspace on their Washington Ave roastery. The system – enough to power 2 homes – is expected to produce about half of the power used in the facility, offsetting roughly 18,000 lbs of C02 emissions from conventional electricity sources.

“The install went great, I couldn’t imagine it going any better,” says Spear. “[ReVision Energy Project Manager] Josh was great, very easy to work with, and things went very smoothly. We had full retail operations going and only heard positive things from our customers – who are always the first to tell us if things are awry.”

In fact, word from customers so far has been outstanding. Lindeman and Spear both comment on their Facebook posts about solar, which attracted the most ‘likes’ and comments of any to date. The highly visible system has become a talking point about solar in the whole East End neighborhood. And being part of the neighborhood is, ultimately, what Coffee by Design is all about.

“For us, this was an opportunity to really think about who we [Coffee by Design] are and focus on our values,” Lindeman adds. “We decided that solar was part of those values and so we went for it – and we have been thrilled to see our customers respond positively to our commitment.”

You can get your own cup of solar brewed joe at any of Coffee by Design’s coffeehouses, on India Street, Congress Street, or Washington Ave in Portland, and in the L.L. Bean Flagship Store in Freeport. Live further afield? You can order coffee online.

Hear the CBD Solar Story in their own words with our latest Solar Road Tour video:

More Photos from Our Commercial Solar Photo Gallery

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