City Moves Toward Community Solar Projects PLUS

Troy Moon's the City New Sustainability Coordinator, at Today's Meeting at City Hall.

Troy Moon’s the City’s New Sustainability Coordinator Listens to the Debate at Today’s Meeting at City Hall.

Sam Saltinstall, Former PI Resident, Supports a Community Solar Installation on Peaks Island.

Sam Saltinstall, Former PI Resident, Supports a Community Solar Installation on Peaks Island.

Charlie Taylor, of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, of Massachusetts

Charlie Taylor, of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, of Massachusetts, Spoke in Favor of Benchmarking

(Post # 2,655)  By Carol McCracken

For anyone who might be interested in investing in a community solar project, the City of Portland is taking steps to make that a possibility.  Two projects were considered at a the Committee on Energy and Sustainability meeting late this afternoon at City Hall; Jon Hinck, Chair.

The first proposal to be considered is the Ocean Avenue Landfill project.  Following a discussion of the financial terms of the project, the Committee voted 3 – 0 in favor of the proposal.  It will be forwarded on to the City Council for its action.  The cost to the city initially is $25,000 per year with a payback in energy savings occurring in year ten.  It is estimated to cost the city $3.3 M over the life of the project.  The power generated is enough to power City Hall and Merrill Auditorium for one year.

The second proposal to be considered was one for the Peaks Island Landfill project.  According to Moon, who visited the proposed site, it is a “favorable” place to use in this way.  A site such as this could be compelling for people who do not have access to solar power on a roof, but can buy into such a program.  The installation would be owned by the individual residents who participate in solar power.  The City would leases space to this group, but does not propose to have an owner ship stake in the installation.  The owners of the “array” would be required to indemnify the City and assume all costs and risks associated with the project development and permitting from the City and from the Maine DEP according to a July 14, memorandum from Troy Moon to the Committee.

The same memorandum from Moon states that community solar projects are attractive to individuals whose property is not suitable for solar panels.  This may include renters, people whose roof is shaded or not otherwise suitable for solar panels. Maine’s policy allows up to 9 individuals to own a remote solar array and assign a proportionate share of the electricity it produces to their own electricity bill. Such projects have become increasingly common in Maine with installations in Bar Harbor, Freeport, Brunswick, South China, Wayne and Rockland.

The proposal has not yet gone to the Peaks Island Council for its approval, so the Committee decided to hold off on a vote until  that has occurred.  “There is good enthusiasm for this.  We don’t have enough people yet who have put money down because of questions that remain in Augusta,” said Sam Saltinstall, a former resident of Peaks Island and sustainable energy advocate.

Councilor Jon  Hinck has proposed an ordinance requiring the owners of certain commercial and residential properties to “benchmark” and disclose energy use.  Such an ordinance would require buildings of a certain size to report their energy use data to the city.  According to Charlie Taylor, of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, ( the effect of this compilation is to reduce the overall consumption of energy when this information is shared with each other.  Whether or not there would be a penalty for non-compliance is a subject that needs to be explored.

Moon made no presentation on the subject.  It will be taken up again at the September 2016 meeting.