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Laura Dorle,
Environment Maine

Solar energy per person grew 37% percent last year in Maine

For Immediate Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday September 3, 2015 11:00 AM

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Laura Dorle, 207-245-0394, laura@environmentmaine.org

 Report: Solar energy per person grew 37% percent last year in Maine

 ORONO, ME – Per capita solar power capacity grew 37 percent in Maine last year, according to a new report by Environment Maine Research & Policy Center. The growth rate put the state 21st in the country for solar power capacity per person added in 2014, behind its neighbors in New England neighbors New Hampshire and Vermont, 3rd and 4th in the country for solar capacity per capita added last year.

Lighting the Way III: The top ten states that helped drive America’s solar energy boom says every state in the country gets enough sun to meet its energy needs many times over, but the states who ranked the highest for solar per capita were those with policies that allow increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar.”

 “We’ve got plenty of sunshine. Combine that with plenty of commitment to clean energy policies,” said Laura Dorle, Campaign Organizer with Environment Maine, “and Maine can light the way on solar.”

 Of the top 10 states listed in the report -- Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina -- all have renewable energy requirements, and nine have strong laws to allow solar customers to connect to the electricity grid and sell back their excess power.

 "Our analysis shows that policy choices are a key driver of solar energy growth," said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “State and local government policy leadership is closely aligned with success in growing solar energy.”

Solar power tripled in the last three years nationwide, and is adding jobs much faster than the overall economy, employing 400 people in Maine last year.

John Luft, Branch Manager at Revision Energy’s Liberty branch has seen employment in solar energy at Revision double in the past year saying, “That’s a pretty amazing thing.”

Although Maine currently lags behind New England in solar power, local communities and business owners have taken it upon themselves to build up the solar resource in the state.

Professor Sharon Klein at the University of Maine’s School of Economics noted the boom in interest in community solar, an arrangement where multiple parties invest in and share the benefits of a solar array, in Maine, "Through my research and teaching in Maine over the last 4 years, I have seen a lot of interest and excitement about solar from citizens, installers, and elected officials. Community solar is taking off around the country, as people seek to reduce costs and increase availability to more diverse users. Massachusetts and Vermont are national leaders in this area, while Maine's community solar market is slowly emerging."

Many want to see Maine follow the lead of its neighbors in enacting policies that support consumers and industry.

Says Chuck Piper, owner of SunDog Solar Company in Searsport, "Sundog Solar has been installing clean renewable solar electric and solar hot water systems since 2010 and our goal is to bring energy independence to Maine.  Maine actually receives enough annual sunlight to provide for all the electrical needs of homes and business'.  Prices have also come down dramatically over the past six years making solar more affordable.  We are hopeful that the state of Maine legislature will see all the benefits solar has to offer and will begin supporting consumers and the growing solar industry here in Maine."

At the federal level, the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sets state-by-state limits on carbon pollution from coal and gas power plants and was finalized last month, provides critical incentives for Maine to accelerate its development of solar energy. According to Environment Maine research, solar power could easily meet about half the pollution reduction targets required by the plan.  

Ronald Davis, Professor Emeritus at the Climate Change Institute, gave his own personal appeal to Mainers to urge support for the Clean Power Plan.

“There are three things all of us can do now to encourage a transition to clean energy, including solar. First, we can urge our congressional holdouts, Representative Poliquin and Senator Collins to get behind President Obama's Clean Power Plan, because it is a strong step toward amelioration of potentially disastrous human-caused climate change.  Second, Maine is way behind other New England states in solar development, and needs to do much more to encourage it.  Urge your state representatives to support rebates in the Efficiency Maine program for Solar PV installations and electric cars.  And third, get you own private house in order.  Practice energy conservation in your home and transportation.  My home and transportation are now powered over 95 percent by solar.  Thousands of other Mainers can afford to make the same transition.  Where there is a will, there is a way,” said Davis.

“Indeed, we must chart a course to 100 percent clean energy to slow global warming,” said Dorle. “The state’s recent growth in solar power is great/good news, but it only scratches the surface of what’s possible and what’s necessary to ensure a healthier, safer climate for our kids.”

  

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Environment Maine Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.environmentmainecenter.org