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A Closer Look: Community Solar Projects

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 11:31 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -

There has been a lot of talk recently regarding ways that you could possibly save on electricity costs. NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard takes a look at Community Solar Projects.

In light of recent spikes in electricity costs, many are looking for alternate electricity options. One method thought to save money is Community Solar Projects, otherwise known as solar farms. While the concept of generating electricity from the sun is a simple one, the regulation of it is not, and many of These solar farms differ a bit from solar panels for personal use, in regards to both scale, and how your investment is returned. If you join a Community Solar Project, you do not directly receive your power from the panels, instead beneficiaries receive Energy Credits, which offset a portion of their home’s electricity bill.

“It produces power that goes to the grid and we’re issued solar credits that then we provide to businesses within the Versant Maine Public District. So we actually don’t sell power, we sell credits and the credits are issued by the utility company.” - Shawn Pelletier – Partner, Caribou Solar Power

You may have even received marketing materials regarding a solar project in your mailbox claiming you could save up to 15% on your electricity bill. The solar farms are supposed to offer the credits they receive to consumers in the same electric grid, some farms opt to benefit a small closed group of investors, and some choose to open it up to the public, however according to Deputy Public Advocate Andrew Landry, some of these farms are actually benefiting out of state investors, and aren’t offsetting usage in their communities.

“What is happening, what we’re seeing is they are selling the renewable energy credits from these projects to other consumers, in many cases out of state, and then they are not then backing the energy that’s being delivered to their customers with replacement renewable energy certificates, as a result you’re actually buying dirtier energy then if you stayed with a competitive supplier.”

Another important aspect to consider, is if you can even sign up for one of these Community Solar Projects. WAGM spoke with Don Willet, Owner of Maine Solar Choices, who acts as a middle man between consumers and the farms to find out what’s available in the county.

“I’m wondering if you do have programs available to people in Aroostook County”

“I do. A lot of people don’t even know these programs exist, so my job is to let people know they exist, let them know what the benefits are to them, answer the questions that they have, and sign them up. Right now for Aroostook County, I have both programs, the only limitation is that they have to be a Versant utility grid”

WAGM followed up with Willet in order to try and find out exactly what consumers would be signing up for, but were told that they couldn’t disclose locations or information out of competitive concerns, however according to a follow up email, these solar farms will not be operational until late 2022 – early 2023.

After looking at marketing materials for two different Solar Projects advertising In the county and visiting their websites, WAGM was not able to confirm that ‘Community Solar with Nexamp’ is actually available to residents of Aroostook County despite the marketing materials informing consumers “Space is limited” and “Don’t Wait”. WAGM was able to track down one solar project, ‘The Novel Energy Community Solar Garden’, that is offering membership in Aroostook county, though it isn’t outright stated how many people can sign up for the project, and how long membership will be open to the public, or if the farms are currently operational.

Links:

https://maine.nexamp.com/?utm_campaign=Maine&utm_source=SOL-ME-DM&utm_medium=VISA50&utm_promo=True&utm_content=VISA&amt=50

https://www.joinsolar.org/gardens/join-the-novel-energy-community-solar-farm

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8

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