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On Wednesday, March 12th, Mainers from across the state will converge at the Augusta Civic Center for the first-ever Climate Solutions Expo & Summit. The Expo will provide a venue for citizens, businesses, and lawmakers to engage in dialogue about the implications of climate change in Maine, discuss alternatives to fossil fuel use for heating, electricity, and transport, and demonstrate to the legislature and community that there is wide interest in solving our dirty energy dependency.

The day comes at a time when Maine stands as the only state in the Northeast without state-level policies supporting solar energy. Even without a state rebate program, however, solar adoption continues to grow in Maine. The cost for solar photovoltaic systems has decreased by over 50% in the last 6 years, and since grid electric rates continue to rise, solar electricity offers a compelling 8-10% average return on investment over 20 years.

ReVision Energy will be joining dozens of other exhibitors and panelists at the Expo as we engage in dialogue with people throughout the state about how to transition our economy from one reliant on destructive fossil fuels to one powered by renewable energy.

We invite you to attend as well: http://climatesolutionsme.org/.

Maine’s Solar Potential

Freeport, Maine SolarWe’ve been called in to the Legislature to testify about Maine’s solar potential a few times in recent months, and want to share some figures that we found impressive. It starts with the question: do we actually have enough sun in Maine to meet our energy needs?

Yes – it just takes a bit of math. Maine receives on average 4.5-5.0 kilowatt hours (kWh)/m2/day of solar energy (Source: NREL). Adjusting this ideal figure to weather data, (from NREL’s PVWatts) allows us to say that 1,000 watts of solar panels (4 x 250 watt panels with an area of 72 sq. ft) can be expected to generate 1,270 kWh annually.

In 2011, Maine used about 11.5 million megawatt-hours (MWh, or 1,000 kWh). The state has 35,385 sq. miles of land, and to meet 100% of that electricity demand, you would need to cover just 0.1% of Maine’s land mass, or 986.5 MFt2 (22,600 acres).

22,600 acres – that’s a lot of solar panels! True, but that works out to just 25 acres per municipality in Maine, and much of this land use could be derived from existing rooftops.

The point of this exercise isn’t to suggest that solar alone will meet our energy needs – we need a plurality of solutions include local tidal, hydro, wind, solar and biomass combined with energy efficiency, a smarter grid, and better heating, cooling, and transport technology. But what we cannot afford is to wait longer to make substantive, infrastructure-level changes to the way we make and consume energy. Powering our economy with renewable energy is possible now with existing technology and environmental resources. All we’re missing is a lack of a plan, and will, to do it.

Currently, Maine’s Legislature is considering a number of solar bills, and although the bills have broad bipartisan support, their fate is uncertain. Maine is at a critical juncture, where we can either begin to make progress at combating our fossil fuel addiction or fall further behind.

Lawmakers need to hear that constituents demand friendlier policies towards solar. Please, if you are a voter in Maine (or who have friends that are) contact your local legislators and tell them what you think about solar.

You can look up contact information at:http://www.maine.gov/portal/government/edemocracy/lookup_voter_info. Also follow the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) who have a portal for tracking solar bills in the Maine statehouse: http://www.nrcm.org/projects-hot-issues/state-house-watch/2014-legislative-bill-tracking/

BREAKING: A vote was expected by Maine’s House as early as Tues, March 11 on LD1252, the act which would restore Maine’s solar rebate program.