Maine Community Solar Farm FAQs

Maine Community Solar Farm Overview:

Who is community solar for?

The short answer: all Mainers! Community solar is inclusive solar, meaning it is appealing to a large variety of people who are interested in transitioning to solar power but who don’t have the opportunity to invest in solar on their own property. This includes renters and apartment or condo owners, small businesses in larger buildings, homeowners or business owners with structural roof issues or insufficient sun exposures, and Mainers planning to relocate in the foreseeable future. CSFs are also a great option for customers who already generate electricity through rooftop solar but want additional clean energy than what they are capable of producing on their property.

Should I install rooftop panels or own solar on a solar farm? Is one more beneficial or cheaper?

commercial-community-solar.jpegThe long-term investment in a community solar farm is roughly the same as rooftop solar. The economy of scale renders CSF power less expensive than rooftop solar power, but of course, this depends on the specifics of your property and your electricity needs. Solar farms have the benefit of greater accessibility and scale, while rooftop solar has advantages related to battery storage and home resale value.

If your property has potential for a roof or ground mounted array, we still recommend exploring both options: installing on-property panels and joining a community solar farm. Each has its benefits and setbacks, and folks have different preferences of how they want their solar journey to look!

Does my solar farm have to be in the town where I live? Where will it be located?

You do not need to live in the same town as your CSF; you simply need to live in the same utility territory that it is located in. The number of contracted members and the size of those individual members’ systems helps determine the location of the solar farm based on our pool of available sites. This means the exact location of the array is not always determined when you sign a contract. ReVision works with landowners all over Maine to provide future CSF members a cost-efficient and viable location for the solar array.

How many other members of my solar farm will there be?

The total membership is different for every farm and will be determined based on the size of shares owned and the energy produced.

Are CSF projects insured? If so, what type of insurance do you carry?

Community Solar of New England LLC is given the responsibility of securing the appropriate levels of insurance.  We obtain property insurance for the entire cost of the system, based on the sum of all components and cost to build. We also carry General Liability insurance up to $2,000,000.

Ownership Model FAQs:

What is the difference between ownership community solar and subscription community solar?

Both community solar options provide clean solar energy to the members of the CSFs, regardless of whether you are an owner or a subscriber. Each model offers different benefits, the main difference being that in an ownership model the members receive the financial benefits of solar, while in the subscription model those benefits go to the third-party companies that own the solar farm.

In a subscription model, the solar farm is owned and operated by third-party developers or investors, meaning they will receive the financial incentives. Subscribing to community solar is much like renting electricity, with the benefits of it being cleaner and typically cheaper than electricity from a utility. Since it is a “pay as you go” system, leaving and joining the farm is relatively easy.

In an ownership model, as offered by ReVision, the full benefits of the solar investment go to the individual members of the community solar farm. Members are eligible for the residential solar federal tax credit of 30%. They also experience greater long-term savings than those in a subscription-based CSF, since you are building a long-term financial investment that can be sold or gifted like any other owned asset.

ReVision Energy Local Solar FarmsDoes an ownership model mean I own the solar panels that make up my solar farm share?

ReVision’s ownership-based approach to community solar farms means that unlike in a subscription-based model, you own the solar shares and can receive the same financial incentives as if you owned solar panels on your roof. Though you are an outright owner of your share of the farm itself, you don’t own the physical panels.

As a CSF member, what role do I play?

The members of all CSFs developed by ReVision Energy in Maine join together as owners of Community Solar of New England LLC (CSNE LLC). As a member, you own shares of the farm, which lives on land that is leased to CSNE LLC by the landowners. You pay an annual operating cost and receive all the benefits of your solar farm share!

What role does ReVision Energy play?

ReVision Energy designs, sells and builds the solar farms for its members. ReVision also manages and maintains the solar arrays at a small cost to CSNE LLC (your annual operating cost). ReVision’s role goes beyond simply setting up the CSF and keeping the panels operational. As a Maine-based company and the first local solar company bringing community solar to our state, ReVision is very invested in the long-term benefit and viability of community solar for Mainers.

Though rooftop solar is the most common way people transition to solar energy, community solar farms are the most democratic method, and a highly accessible option that benefits the owners of the solar farm and the landowners who host the solar farm. Unlike an out-of-state, third-party developer, we are closely involved in the development and maintenance of our farms. The longevity of the Maine solar movement depends on it!

Does the solar farm require maintenance?

Solar farms require minor maintenance, with the primary upkeep being mowing. This maintenance is built into the annual operating cost structure that all shareholders contribute toward. The annual operating costs are paid to CSNE LLC, which covers the maintenance taken care of by the host. Our service and operations team is well versed in the upkeep and maintenance needed to keep a solar farm in peak form.

Cost & Financing FAQS:

How much does it cost to purchase a CSF share? Is there financing available?

Cost depends on your share size and share size is dependent upon your budget and the amount of electricity you use or want to offset with solar. A firm number can be produced after a solar designer sees your electric bill. Typical shares range from $15,000-$30,000 before the 30% tax credit.

We have financing options that require no money down, and allow you to go solar for a monthly payment comparable to your old utility bill. There are shorter loans that may increase the monthly amount you typically paid your utility, but would increase the overall return on investment. This flexibility makes it possible for anyone to stop renting electricity from the utility and go solar.

Do I get to take the federal tax credit on my CSF share?

Yes, since you own a share in the CSF you are eligible to exercise the residential solar federal tax credit. ReVision Energy does not provide tax advice, and we strongly recommend you work with a professional tax preparer.

How much are annual operating costs? What do they go towards?

Annual operating expenses for the CSF are based on each member's individual system size. In the first five years, the cost per kilowatt for each share is $25. In years 6-10 the cost is $25/kW plus a 3% increase each year. In year 11, the Membership (shareholders) and the Manager (ReVision Energy) will collaborate on a budget for future operating expenses. We expect the cost change to be minimal and would likely follow the small 3% escalation each year. If you are interested in joining a CSF, a sample of annual expenses will be provided with your CSF system proposal.

The host is paid annual fees for use of the land and its upkeep. This includes insurance expenses, tax filings, and maintenance in the form of mowing and land upkeep. A sample of annual expenses will be provided with your CSF system proposal.

What are RECs and how are they involved in community solar?

A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) represents the intangible value of the clean energy produced with your solar panels. Renewable power plants (PV solar arrays, wind farms, etc.) are awarded 1 REC for every 1,000 kWh (1 MWh) of electricity they generate. For our community solar farms, CSNE LLC will take care of selling RECs.

The sale of RECs will be used to offset annual expenses after the first 10 years. REC values can fluctuate significantly from one year to the next and the future values of RECs cannot be predicted. ReVision Energy is taking on the risk of REC value fluctuation for 10 years and allowing members to know exactly what their annual membership costs will be for the first decade.

The most important thing to know about RECs is that they add value to the solar investment and we expect them to cover some or all of the operating expenses in year 11 and beyond.

Crystal Spring Solar Farm In ProgressIs community solar power less expensive than what I’m currently buying from my utility?

Yes, as well as being clean and produced in Maine! You can think of investing in solar as pre-buying your electricity for the next 25+ years. The panels have a 25-year power output warranty so you can be very confident in the stream of electricity coming to you for the next 25 years.

Joining a CSF is a strong economic investment. If you add the clean units of electricity (measured in kWh) up and divide by the net cost of the system (after factoring in the tax credit) you will see that your 25-year solar electricity rate is roughly half of what you currently pay your utility per kWh. Even more astounding, it will be a third of what your utility rate is expected to be in 25 years!

What happens when the electricity rate from the grid goes up?

As an owner of a community solar farm share, your electricity rate remains locked in at the same rate it was when you joined the CSF over the course of the 25-year contract! While grid-based electricity rates can fluctuate, the overall trend of New England electricity prices is headed upward, with an average of 3.4% increase every year. Cost of delivery and maintaining the grid will inevitably drive-up utility rates. Solar electricity rates, on the other hand, will stay the same for the full course of the CSF’s existence.

What happens if the PUC changes net metering rules in the future – can I still get energy credits from my solar panels?

Historically, existing net metering agreements are grandfathered any time there are changes made.

CSF Share FAQs:

How large does my CSF share need to be?

The number of panels in your CSF share will depend on your existing electrical usage, your potential future usage, and your appetite for investment. You could offset some or all of your electrical usage with solar power, or you may opt for a larger share if you are planning to expand electrical usage with an electric vehicle, heat pumps, etc. Our team at ReVision is more than happy to help you calculate the size of your share determined on your home's electricity usage and your clean energy goals.

Will my power bill be zero dollars?

While it is possible to offset 100% of the cost of the kilowatt-hours that you consume at your home or business, there are still small, monthly connection fees that you will owe to the utility.

Can I offset multiple power bills with one CSF share? 

Yes, you can offset multiple utility accounts with a single CSF share, but those accounts must all be in your name.

If I want more solar panels down the road (to offset usage of a heat pump, EV, etc...), can I buy more panels at my solar farm?

While you can’t expand your share within a completed solar farm, you can join a second farm if you would like to increase your clean energy consumption.

How long will my solar farm last? What happens after that?

There is a 25-year lease agreement with the landowner. The members then have the option for two 5-year extensions, for a combined total of 35 years. At the end of the system's useful life, we can remove all of the equipment (easily, since we are not using any concrete), salvage it to cover the labor expense, and return the field to its natural habitat.

What happens if I move? Can I transfer or sell my CSF share?

Yes, if you move within the utility territory then you can still offset your electric bill at your new location. If you move to a different utility territory you will be able to transfer or sell your share. There will be a nominal paperwork fee from CSNE LLC to facilitate this transfer (on the order of $100), but if you find the buyer/grantee and arrange the deal, that is all.

If ReVision's help is needed to find a buyer, a higher flat fee will be charged.