Solar Industry News

Lincolnville Lights Up a Midcoast Solar Movement

The 140 solar panels installed for the Town of Lincolnville will generate an estimated 52,485 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity each year, reducing carbon pollution by over 50,000 lbs annually. In all, the system will cover 91% of the town's electrical load. Photo courtesy Greta Gulezian.

In 2012, community members in Lincolnville, Maine made national news in their successful effort to re-purpose a one room schoolhouse built in 1849 to be a privately funded community library. Among other highlights in the project - scores of volunteers skillfully tugged the old schoolhouse across a road to a new lot where it was thoroughly refurbished, weatherized, and solarized.

Bolstered by a grant from Efficiency Maine, the weatherization process, including passive solar design, well-insulated double walls, and a heat pump installation, was done very carefully so as to maintain the building's historic integrity. Completing the package was a solar array installed by ReVision Energy (we donated our labor for the project), which allows the building to produce all its own energy for lights, heating, and cooling.

Today the library is a vital gathering place and learning center, and an example of what committed members of the community can do. The next chapter of Lincolnville's embrace of locally generated energy was to bring the concept to the town, which, like the library, learned that solar was an affordable way to take control of current and future energy costs.

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Lincolnville Community Library was a project envisioned by local volunteers and dozens of people were involved in literally pulling the building (formerly an old schoolhouse) across the road to its current site. The community had never had a library before, and now it has one of the only net-zero, solar powered + heat pump heated/cooled facilities in the state of Maine! Photo courtesy Lincolnville Community Library.

A Movement Gets Started

The first step was to get buy-in, and do some research. The ad hoc Lincolnville Energy Committee, formed by the Community Library President, Cindy Dunham, and a number of other library advocates, was authorized by the town's Board of Selectmen to review the energy usage of town-owned buildings, and explore whether solar might be attractive to the town. Their results proved compelling to the Selectmen, who authorized an RFP process which ultimately led to a proposal from ReVision Energy.

ReVision Energy proposed to install a ground mounted solar power system adjacent to the Lincolnville fire department, via a land lease and power purchase agreement (PPA). A PPA allows the town to benefit from solar at no up-front cost, instead, the town purchases the electricity generated by the array, at competitive rates, with the option to purchase the system outright in future years.

ReVision Energy's proposal was brought to town meeting, where it received a unanimous vote in support. The community again saw the clear win: long term energy savings and control of their energy future proved compelling for this ruggedly independent small Maine town.

Celebrating the Sun

The solar installation was completed this winter and now that June is here, it is cranking out the kilowatts! The solar-interested can join ReVision Energy and the Town of Lincolnville in a solar solstice celebration at the Lincolnville firehouse, scheduled for the afternoon of June 21 .

In Midcoast Maine, word of mouth is still a powerful mode of communication and Lincolnville's efforts have attracted attention from neighboring towns, something which Lincolnville's citizens can be proud of.

"It's important to think globally and act locally," said Town Administrator David Kinney. "We're all trying to do our part. And if every little town did a little bit, it'd go a long way."