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Proposed Measure Aims to Jump Start Solar in Maine


Monday, February 29, 2016   

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine is expected to get a lot more bang for the buck under a new plan to expand solar projects across the state.

Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, who represents Freeport, says hearings should begin in a couple of weeks on new legislation to jump start solar in Maine.

She says municipalities, utility companies, the solar industry and renewable energy advocates back the proposal.

"We sat down the Maine way at the table, brought stakeholders together and came up with a plan,” she explains. “And the bottom line is that plan gives us a blueprint to grow solar tenfold over the next five years."

Critics of the proposed legislation don't like the fact it would kill net metering, which some believe is the best way to ensure that solar customers receive a return on their investment.

Bill supporters say the impact of the accounting change is small compared with the economic benefits the bill would bring in terms of new investment and jobs.

Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says the state has long ranked at the bottom in New England in terms of solar installations. He says the new legislation should triple the number of solar jobs in the state to at least 800 direct jobs.

"We have states around us that are national leaders in solar, recognizing the benefits that solar is providing,” he states. “So on the one hand, there is only one way to go, which is up, but I think it's fair to say that this bill would put Maine on track to get out of last place."

Plenty of Mainers already have installed rooftop solar. Gideon says the bill would help them, but also provide incentives to grow solar in other ways.

"We looked at ways to give legs to the other market segments – community-owned solar, commercial and industrial solar, which might be on, for example, on a big-box store, or a college or university who wants to have a significant amount of solar that they produce," she states.

The legislation would also eliminate the 10 participant maximum for solar farms.

Backers say that removes a hurdle that has been limiting the growth of community solar.

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