An excerpt from Solar Slowly Rising in Maine contributed by Kathryn Skelton

Lewiston industrial roofer IRC installed solar panels on roofs all around New England — multimillion-dollar, multi-megawatt projects — but never converted its own headquarters to solar.

Industrial Roofing Companies President Mike Davis said the $75,000 solar project on the roof of the company’s warehouse will pay for itself in five years. IRC’s workforce has doubled to 125 employees in the past seven years because of the growth in solar projects that IRC installs throughout New England. DARYN SLOVER/SUN JOURNAL

Until last week.

Time and price were finally right.

Leaders of Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn started contemplating solar power two years ago. In December, they installed a $325,000 system that’s expected to almost halve the school’s energy bill.

And with a pair of awards last month, the Maine Public Utilities Commission spurred more than $100 million worth of investment in two commercial solar projects expected to power thousands of homes within two years.

Solar power remains a tiny fraction of the energy market in Maine, but there’s no question that business is booming here.

Converts cite the environment, the savings, even the pope.

“Yes, it’s less expensive to pull oil out of the ground and light it on fire, there’s no question,” said Kurt Penney, a business development executive at Industrial Roofing Companies, which includes IRC’s Solar Roof Systems. “And yet, that’s not really a sustainable future.”

At his company, solar system costs have dropped 70 percent in six years. The upfront investment is expensive but increasingly within reach.

More at: http://www.sunjournal.com/news/maine-business/2016/01/17/solar-slowly-rising-maine/1847685#.VqDIL7Kn9mM.twitter