Solar Industry News

There are many reasons solar energy is on the rise in Maine, but one of the biggest is ReVision Energy.

ReVision Energy's renewable energy projects are frequently featured in local and national newpapers, radio and television.

It's a brilliant fall day on the Boothbay Peninsula, and that's reason enough to smile. Since August, however, days like these lift Lynne and Chris Gilbert's spirits a little bit higher. The Gilberts and I are standing in an Edgecomb field, admiring the source of their elation: two solar arrays, one on the ground, the other on the roof of a handsome old barn, are harvesting the sun's energy, reducing the Gilberts' carbon footprint - and their electric bill.

"Oh, boy, are they!" Lynne exclaims. "We are getting all of our electricity for the basic service charge. We'll probably get some higher bills over the next few months, but next summer, we'll bank a lot of credits toward next winter."

But this is not the Gilberts' field, and that is not their barn. They live 15 miles away in a heat-pump-equipped house that is not well positioned for solar panels. So they, along with eight other Lincoln County households, purchased a share in this new grid-tied solar farm on David Nutt and Judy Sandick's property. It is the second community solar farm in Maine, and several more are in the works, all with the same company's name behind them: ReVision Energy.

ReVision's success can be chalked up in part to a dramatic decline in the price of solar panels (thanks to mass production in China), but Bill Behrens contends a major cultural shift also is afoot. "There's a social change going on that is as radical as the change from horse power to petroleum power, and we're just in the early days of it," believes Behrens, who spoke with me at ReVision's office and warehouse in Liberty. "In the beginning, cars were something to be afraid of. They were scary. Solar is scary to people who are used to taking their power off the utility grid. Horses were great; cars are better. Coal-based electricity is great; solar-based electricity is better. Adoption of any major change takes place in a wave process: It's very slow in the beginning, then it starts ramping up, and it gets to a point where, instead of most of the people saying, 'This is crazy,' most of the people are saying, 'This is phenomenal.' Then, finally, it is dominant. We'll be there in about 20 years, maybe. The world is going to catch on. Our mission is to help the world catch on faster and faster."

That mission distinguishes ReVision among mechanical contracting firms: its business may be nuts and bolts, but its identity is built on a commitment to making a positive impact on the environment and the community. The company's values, which are peppered throughout its website, have helped create a work culture in which employees are not only united around an altruistic principle (using business as a force for good), but also well rewarded for it (401K plan with company match, health insurance, paid holidays, and paid time off for volunteer work). In July, ReVision Energy attained B Corp certification, a designation offered by the nonprofit B Lab to businesses that meet "rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency."

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